English Grammar For Dummies
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Most of the sentences you encounter are in the normal subject–verb order, which is (surprise!) subject–verb. In other words, the subject usually comes before the verb. Not every sentence follows that order, though most do. Sometimes a subject hides out at the end of the sentence or in some other weird place. (Hey, even a subject needs a change of scenery sometime.)

If you pop the question and answer it according to the meaning of the sentence — not according to the word order — you'll be fine. The key is to put the subject questions (who? what?) in front of the verb. Then think about what the sentence is actually saying and answer the questions. Like magic, your subject will then appear.

Try this one:

Up the avenue and around the park trudged Godzilla.
  1. Pop the question: What's happening? What is? Answer: trudged. Trudged is the verb.
  2. Pop the question: Who trudged? What trudged? Answer: Godzilla. Godzilla is the subject. (You decide whether Godzilla is a who or a what.)
If you were answering by word order, you'd say park. But the park did not trudge; Godzilla trudged. Pay attention to meaning, not to placement in the sentence, and you can't go wrong.

What are the subjects and verbs in the following sentences?

A. Alas, what a sadly inadequate grammarian am I.

B. Across the river and through the woods to the grammarian's house go Ella and Larry.

Answers: In sentence A, am is the verb and I is the subject. In sentence B, the verb is go and the subjects are Ella and Larry.

Always find the verb first. Then look for the subject.

About This Article

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Geraldine Woods has more than 35 years of teaching experience. She is the author of more than 50 books, including English Grammar Workbook For Dummies and Research Papers For Dummies.

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