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What is a Simple Subject? - Definition & Examples

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Debbie Notari

Debbie Notari received her Bachelor’s degree in English and M.S. in Education Literacy and Learning for Grades 6-12. Debbie has over 28 years of teaching experience, teaching a variety of grades for courses like English, Reading, Music, and more.

Expert Contributor
Kaitlyn Danahy

Kate has a bachelor's degree in literature & creative writing from Gordon College. She taught high school literature, philosophy, and writing in India and has tutored for the same subjects in the US.

A simple subject is a unit of a sentence that focuses on one noun as the subject of the sentence. Understand it better through its definition and the examples provided here. Updated: 09/17/2021

Simple Subjects

A simple subject is probably the most basic unit in sentence construction. A subject is a noun, which is a person, place, thing, or idea. A subject tells us who or what the sentence is going to be about. Without a subject, we cannot have a complete sentence. A simple subject is a subject that has just one noun as the focus of the sentence. This means that only one noun does the action, or connects, to the verb of the sentence.

In order to understand simple subjects, we need to gain a better understanding of nouns. Here are some examples:

  • People: firemen, boys, girls, teachers, parents
  • Places: the beach, home, school, the grocery store
  • Things: pencils, backpacks, tacos, cars
  • Ideas: courage, imagination, fear, humor

When we name specific people and places, we call these words proper nouns, and they need to begin with capital letters, such as the words 'Michael Jordan' and 'San Francisco'.

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  • 0:01 Simple Subjects
  • 1:09 When Nouns Are Subjects
  • 1:44 Practice with Simple Subjects
  • 2:20 Lesson Summary
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When Nouns Are Subjects

Every sentence has to have two parts: a subject and a verb (or predicate). The subject tells us who or what is the focus of the sentence. When we have a simple subject, there is only one noun that completes the action in the sentence. Only one noun gets the focus. Here are a few examples of simple subjects used in sentences:

  • Every child needs love and nurturing. In this sentence, 'child' is the simple subject.
  • Crocodiles thrive in Florida. Here, the word 'crocodiles' is the simple subject.

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Additional Activities

Not-So-Simple Subjects

Read the following sentences and identify the subject of each sentence. (Some of them might be tricky.) Check the answer key to see how you did.

Asha woke up late. She barely had time to eat. Her mother worried Asha would get sick from eating so fast. Her homework was already in her bag. Asha's stern teacher had promised a detention to any student who was late. Fortunately, Asha lived close to her school. She got to school just before the bell rang, and just as she was about to close the door, she saw her friend Jongwoo running towards the school. He was late as well. Asha hesitated, but she held the door open for her friend to duck inside. They made it to class just in time.

Answer Key:

The simple subjects are, in order, Asha, she (Asha again), mother, homework, teacher, Asha, she (Asha), he (Jongwoo), Asha, and they.

But wait...

You might have noticed that in sentence five, the subject is "teacher." However, the full phrase is "Asha's stern teacher." The teacher is the simple subject because he performed the action (promising a detention); "Asha's" and "stern" are words known as "modifiers." Modifiers describe a noun, and so "Asha's stern teacher" is actually known as the complete subject, even if "teacher" is the simple subject. But this is not the first modified subject in the paragraph: "mother" and "homework" are both described as being Asha's by the word "her!"

Next Up: Your Favorite Story or Song!

Now, pick up your favorite story book and choose a few lines from your favorite scene (a scene from your favorite movie would also work), or a verse/the chorus from your favorite song. What is the subject in each sentence? Keep in mind that, depending on your choice, the subjects might be not-so-simple after all. When in doubt, ask yourself who or what is doing the action of the sentence, or who or what the action is being done to. If there is more than one person, place, or thing, it is called a compound subject (for example, in a sentence like "Asha and Jongwoo ran to their classroom," Asha and Jongwoo are both the subject. Thus, they make a compound subject).

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