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Using Nouns as the Subject of a Sentence: Grammar Rules & Examples

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  • 0:05 Nouns as Subjects
  • 0:43 How to Spot a Subject
  • 3:20 Types of Subjects
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a law degree.

A subject is an essential part of a sentence. This video explains the role that subjects play in sentences, how nouns work as subjects and the various types of subjects.

Nouns as Subjects

'Is the core of a sentence.' 'Must have one to be complete.' 'Tells what's being talked about.' 'Lose points if you don't have one.' 'Will be a problem if it's missing.'

You may be wondering what this big, important thing is that I'm talking about. You should be wondering that because the topic, or subject, of my discussion is missing. I haven't told you what it is that I'm talking about. My job here is to tell you what I'm talking about, just like your job, when you write a sentence, is to tell your reader what you're talking about. To do that, you'll need to understand what a subject is and how to use it.

How to Spot a Subject

You may recall that a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun is a part of speech, which simply means that it's a type of word. It's easy enough to know that:

  • 'cat' is a noun
  • 'building' is a noun
  • 'teacher' is a noun

Once we understand what a certain part of speech, like a noun, is, we then need to start thinking about what it does in a sentence. One of the things that a noun can do in a sentence is act as the subject of the sentence. So, the first rule to keep in mind is that the subject of a sentence will be a noun or pronoun. A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun in a sentence. Examples of pronouns that can act as subjects in sentences include 'I,' 'she,' 'he,' 'it,' 'we,' and 'they.'

So, now that we know that a noun or pronoun can be a subject, we need to figure out what a subject does. The subject of a sentence is arguably the most important part of a sentence. It tells what the sentence is about. If a sentence is missing a subject - as in, 'Walked into the room' - then you don't have a complete sentence at all, but rather a sentence fragment. You literally haven't told your reader what you're talking about.

A subject is the focal point of the sentence, and it's usually, though not always, what performs the action of the verb. So, if I tell you that, 'The girl threw the ball,' think about which word is the subject of the sentence. In this sentence, as it often is, the subject of the sentence is the noun that performs the action of the verb. Here, the noun 'girl' is the subject of the sentence, as the girl is performing the action, or the verb, 'threw.'

Next, look for the subject in the sentence: 'The student studied for an important test.' First, look for a noun. There are two nouns in this sentence: 'student' and 'test.' Ask yourself: which noun is performing the action in this sentence? 'Student' is, because the student studied. And, sure enough, 'student' is the subject of this sentence.

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