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How To Write a Proper Sentence

English Sentence Structure: Subject and Predicate

Every sentence must have a subject and predicate to be complete and proper.

  • The subject is whom or what the sentence is about.
  • The predicate tells you about the subject.

It is fairly easy to know what is the subject and what is the predicate.

  1. Find the verb (the action word) in the sentence.
  2. The word the verb is describing is the subject.
  3. The predicate, which includes the verb, tells about the subject.


  • The dog ate its dinner.

Subject: The verb "ate" is describing what the dog did. You can ask the question, "Who or what ate?" The answer is: the dog. Thus, the dog is the subject.

Predicate: The predicate is what the dog did. The dog ate its dinner. Thus, ate its dinner is the predicate.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

Subject: beautiful girls (The who or what of the sentence. This is also known as a complex subject because it includes the modifying word beautiful with the simple subject, girls.)

Predicate: danced until dawn. (What the girls did. This is also known as the complex predicate because it contains more than just the verb or simple predicate.)

Simple Predicate

The simple predicate is the verb of the sentence and not all of the words that modify it.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

The (complex) predicate: danced until dawn

The simple predicate: danced

Simple Subject

The simple subject is the subject without all the other words that may modify it.

  • The beautiful girls danced until dawn.

The (complex) subject: the beautiful girls

The simple subject: girls

Books on Sentence Structure

Compound Predicate

A compound predicate contains more than one verb describing the subject and any modifiers.

  • The traffic violation was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.
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Compound predicate: was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.

Compound Subject

A compound subject may include more than one who or what of a sentence and any modifiers.

  • My sister and I played volleyball in high school.

Compound subject: My sister and I

Be careful...

A few sentences can be tricky.

  • If a sentence is a command, many times the subject is implied and that subject is "you".

Go sit at the table in the back. (The subject, you, is implied in this command.)

  • Be careful with sentences beginning with "there" followed by a "to be" verb. "There" is not the subject.

There is a baby crying in the movie theater. (The subject is baby. Again, ask the question, Who is crying? The answer is the baby.)

Examples of Linking Verbs

  • be (all forms)
  • appear
  • look
  • act
  • taste
  • smell
  • sound
  • get
  • grow
  • seem
  • become

Subject Complements and Linking Verbs

  • Sometimes sentences contain intransitive verbs like linking verbs. In these cases we may have a subject complement which has a predicate noun that renames the subject or a predicate adjective that describes the subject. A subject complement is connected to the subject by a linking verb.

The crystal has a rainbow glow.

Subject: the crystal

Linking verb: has

Subject complement (predicate adjective): rainbow glow

The rat was so large it looked like a possum.

Subject: the rat

Linking verb: looked

Subject complement (predicate noun): a possum

Comments, Thoughts, Questions?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on July 25, 2013:

Hi Miss Long, thanks for the comments. I appreciate the link. :)

Michele Kelsey from Edmond, Oklahoma on July 23, 2013:

You have done a great job at helping writers with the basic skill of writing a proper sentence. I went in to some grammar elements in the HubPage I am writing, but it was not this detailed. May I include a link to your HubPage for my readers? It should also bring you more traffic. Michele

Richard on June 18, 2012:

We are coming with. On a commercial and makes me crazy. Isn't the proper sentence....we are coming with you. .?

Den on June 06, 2012:

"Please be informed that I'm on leave on 10th June 2012".Is this a right sentence?

Jolene on May 03, 2012:

Is this a proper sentence?

"The three (3) forms include the Company Information (SMS-57), Primary Contact Profile (SMS-57a), and Billing Contact Profile (SMS-57b) forms."

rdholtz on February 25, 2012:

I was one of those day dreamers growing up and didn't pay attention in writing and grammer class. Now that I'm too old to use my back to make a living I need to go back and learn the basics so I can create content on the Internet and generate income from it. I need Hubs like yours because I stumble on the basics and this is a good example of what I need.

furthen on November 02, 2011:

someone is missing beside it a correct sentence

shar on October 23, 2011:

What is the simple subject in the sentence

My sister Amy is nice.

is it sister or Amy?

georgina dioneda on August 23, 2011:

can u teach me how to make sentence right?

Peter Owen from West Hempstead, NY on August 03, 2011:

Love your hubs. Keep them coming

ayo on July 14, 2011:

i need someone to give practical advice on how to write flawless sentence in English language , i left school almost ten Years ago, i need to be able to write good sentence because of the new project am bout to embark on demand extensive writing. thanks

benson on October 06, 2010:


Jack Moore on July 19, 2010:

This is great. Thanks so much. I'm currently struggling in English but these simple examples were able to help me understand what I got wrong. Thanks again.

alyssa. on February 25, 2010:

"The picture is of me and Jaden,"

"Jaden and i went to the grocery store,"

both are proper, correct?

when i take away the second subject from the first sentence, it will still be read properly as,

"The picture is of me,"

when i take away the second subject from the second sentence, it will still be read properly as,

"I went to the grocery store,"

someone PLEASE tell me i'm right!

Sean Sheedy on March 26, 2009:

Is it okay to start sentences with the words "should" or "Using"?

Tyler Watkins on January 15, 2009:

what is a linking verb and how do u use it send a comment back

colin on April 01, 2008:

i have a question. is the following a proper sentence?

Six minutes until she walks into the deli and immediately slips and falls on her face.

Rob on April 01, 2008:

Your page states:

The traffic violation was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign.

Compound predicate: was for speeding near a school and running a stop sign

But this is not a compound predicate. It's a compound object of the preposition "for." "Speeding" and "running" are gerunds.

Monica on February 11, 2008:

When to use indicate/indicates:

Evaluation of the patient's history, laboratory data, diagnostic tests, radiological studies, and treatment protocol indicate/indicates little improvement in his overall condition.

CPSToo on September 16, 2007:

Robin, do you ever consider helping write for people? I am in the process of making a brochure for our business. I have the thoughts, but not sure if I'm forming my sentences properly. Don't mind paying a fee. Let me know.

Bob on September 05, 2007:

The Sentence: Sally's father traded his hused car for a new one.

What is the simple predicate?

Jonathon VS on May 31, 2007:

A good rule of thumb to determine whether a verb is an action verb or a linking verb is to replace it with a form of "be" (e.g. am, are, is, was, were). If the sentence conveys a similar idea, it's usually a linking verb (not always the case, but 80-90% of the time).

The opera singer sounded terrible.The opera singer was terrible. (Basically the same idea; "sounded" is a linking verb)

The night watchman sounded the alarm.The night watchman was the alarm.(Totally different connontations; therefore, "sounded" is an action verb in this case)

One thing I noticed in your article: in the sentence, "the crystal has a rainbow glow," "has" is actually an action verb.

The (article/adjective) crystal (subject noun) has (action verb) a (article/adjective) rainbow (adjective) glow (direct object/noun).

It's not a predicate adjective because "glow" is a noun, and it's not a predicate nominative (predicate noun) because "has" is an action (predicate nominatives are used with linking verbs, direct objects with action verbs).

Also, in your sentence, "The rat was so large it looked like a possum," "possum" is not a predicate noun, but an object of the preposition "like" ("like a possum" is a prepositional phrase). Surprisingly, that actually makes "looked" an action verb in that sentence (N-AV), even though it has the same meaning as, "she looked the part," (N-LV-N) or, "she looked nervous" (N-LV-A).

Pardon me for splitting so many hairs, but I figured that as a fellow grammarian with such a strong reputation, you'd appreciate the correction. I hope I'm not attacking your article! I really appreciate your posts! They're a breath of fresh air! :)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 31, 2006:

Thanks for reading, Wajay! ;)

wajay_47 on October 31, 2006:

This is a very informative hub. Thanks, Robin.

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