We’ll begin with declarative sentences, sentences that make a statement instead of asking questions or giving orders. All of the examples you’ll see in the next several chapters are declarative sentences.

As we begin, it’s helpful to know that declarative sentences in English usually follow this basic pattern:

Subject + Predicate

The subject comes first, and the predicate follows—usually.


The subject is the star, the prima donna, of the sentence. It’s the part of the sentence that names who or what the sentence is about.

The predicate always tells us something about the subject. Usually, the predicate tells us what the subject is doing (or has done), or it describes the subject.

These very simple sentences follow the simple Subject + Predicate pattern:






The cat












As these sentences illustrate, the subject and the predicate can each be only one word, so it’s possible to write a complete declarative sentence in just two words. (We cheated with The cat smiled.) In longer sentences, which we’ll see shortly, identifying the subjects and predicates of sentences becomes easy with practice.


Every simple declarative sentence that we’ve seen contains a subject and a predicate, and the subject usually appears to the left of the predicate, at the beginning of the sentence or near it.

In these cases, the complete subject and the complete predicate are each just one word long. There’s one exception: The cat.

We can add more words to those subjects and predicates. We can add modifiers, words that describe the subject and the predicate:





in the United States



In this longer sentence, we call birds the simple subject and

fly the simple predicate.

We call Most birds in the United States the complete subject, and we call fly well the complete predicate. That is, the simple subject and all its modifiers make up the complete subject. And the

simple predicate with all its modifiers is the complete predicate. So, in Birds fly, the simple subject and the complete subject are identical, and so are the simple and complete predicates.

Here are more examples, with the simple subjects and predicates in boldface:

A beautiful day like today Mary’s cat

comes too seldom.

ran away yesterday.

As the examples above show, some modifiers appear immedi- ately before the word they modify: A, beautiful, Mary’s, too. But some modifiers can appear afterward, too: like today, seldom, away, yesterday.

In the next examples, we begin with the sentence Irises grow. In each example, the simple subject and predicate are in bold; the complete predicate is underlined; and the rest of the sentence (the part not underlined) is the complete subject:


Sometimes irises

In the spring irises


grow well near the garage.

grow well in our garden.

Here again, some modifiers of grow appear immediately before or after the word they modify: well, near the garage, in our garden. And some modifiers of the predicate can even appear at some distance from grow: Sometimes, In the spring.

Here are some more pairs of sentences, with the simple subject and the simple predicate in bold type and the complete predicate underlined:

Many birds in the U. S. fly south in the winter. In the winter, many birds in the U. S. fly south.

Oscar Hammerstein composed rapidly in the winter of 1927. In the winter of 1927, Oscar Hammerstein composed rapidly.

As you see in the second sentence of each pair, parts of the complete predicate can appear before the subject. This is a common sentence pattern, and we’ll have more to say about it in later chapters.


In some sentences, it’s possible to put the entire predicate before the subject; this is called transposed order (also known as inverted order). In the following sentences, the simple subjects and predicates are in bold type, and the complete predicate is underlined:

Softly fell Gently came

Into the quiet village roared

the rain. the dawn.

the steam locomotive.

Use transposed order with restraint, or it can become just a way of showing off with words.

In the next few chapters, we’ll learn more about subjects, predicates, and modifiers.


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Interactive Grammar Book by Sushumna Rao Tadinada; Professor Moustapha Diack; and Diola Bagayoko, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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