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This article is part of the grammar course.

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The Subject is an element of a Clause. It is the the person or thing that is 'doing' or 'being' the action, or state, of the Verb. These are usually in the order S + V: e.g. "I think"; "she sings"; "we shall play" (note that the Verb here is a Verb Phrase, of two words); "they have been punished "(here, a three-word Verb); etc. Subjects can also be Phrases (Noun Phrases), and have any number of words:

  • "The man spoke";
  • "the tall man spoke";
  • "the very tall man with spectacles spoke";
  • "a bus came";
  • "a red bus came;
  • "a red number 49 bus with a dent on the left of its body came"; etc.

In a sense, the Subject is what or whom we are talking about - but this is not always true in Grammar. For example, the words it and there are often the grammatical Subject of a Clause (e.g. "It is raining"; "there were three of them"; etc.); but they are certainly not the "subjects" in the everyday 'logical' sense: these words do not actually mean anything. We sometimes call them Dummy Subjects.

A Subject can be made up of an entire clause, called a Subordinate Clause, for example "That Britain now stood alone was painfully obvious." The Subject here is a Noun Clause, containing its own Subject, 'Britain', and verb, "stood".