The EFC Writer – Identifying Subjects


Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  


TODAY’S TOPIC: Identifying Subjects

Having a little trouble figuring out where the subject of your sentence might be? Here’s an easy, simple trick to get the job done:

Turn the sentence into a yes/no question—it’ll restructure things so the predicate comes first, leaving the subject hanging on at the end instead.

Check it:

“All Whovians are geeks.”  becomes  “Are all Whovians geeks?”

See how you’ve bumped the verb (“are”) to the front? Now you can easily identify “all Whovians” as the subject! Want to try it again?

“River Song is an awesome chick.”  becomes “Is River Song an awesome chick?”  Did you guess the subject?  Yup! It’s “River Song”!


REMEMBER: There can be lots of bits and pieces involved in just once sentence, so don’t let all those extra words distract you . . . you’ll learn their places eventually. For now, just remember that every sentence needs a two-part foundation: SUBJECT + PREDICATE, and do your best to work on identifying examples of each in your own writing.



This rule doesn’t ALWAYS work . . . sometimes subjects and predicates aren’t right next to each other. All sorts of pesky things (like adverbs and prepositional phrases) can muddle your sentence order, and not only can the order be reversed in a question, but the subject can sometimes come smack dab in the middle of a complete predicate. Yeah. It gets tricky. Break things down as best you can, and remember: subjects always contain nouns and predicates always contain verbs. Your subjects and predicates will almost always have more than one word to them (that’s why we call them “subjects” and “predicates” instead of just using “noun” and “verb” again), but you should ultimately be able to split every sentence into its two basic parts.


Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Y our Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

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