Business Writing Tip #58—Building Sentences: Subjects

Today I thought we’d start a tour of how sentences are made up. There are three essential elements in a sentence, the building blocks of a sentence:building blocks 1

  1. The subject or subjects,
  2. A verb or verbs, and
  3. Punctuation.

So a sentence can be as simple as:

  • Fred swims.

Today we’ll focus on subjects.

The subject of the sentence is the actor, and usually it is near the beginning of a sentence.

To find the subject ask yourself the question, “Who or what is this sentence about?”

  • Samuel wrote the report.

In this sentence when you ask who or what it’s about, the answer is “Samuel”. “Samuel” is the subject of the sentence.

The subjects of sentences are often nouns (words that name), but not always.

They can be pronouns (words that take the place of nouns).

  • She finishes work at 6 pm each day.

They can also be gerunds. Gerunds are the “–ing” form of the verb used as a noun. They usually represent physical or mental activities. “

Let’s take the verb “write”. It has an –ing form which we use often to indicate an action is continuing.

  • Christine is writing.

But we can use “writing” as a noun (a gerund).

  • Writing can be great fun if you like playing around with words.

When I ask who or what this sentence is about, it’s about “writing” – so “writing” is the subject.

Here are some more examples of gerunds:

  • Running up hills can be hard work.
  • Jumping over tall buildings is something only Superman seems able to manage.
  • Swimming in the sea in rough weather isn’t a good idea.
  • Thinking critically is good exercise for your brain.
  • Feeling bad about what you did doesn’t change anything.

We can also use the “to” form of a verb, the infinitive form, as the subject of a sentence.

  • To drive through peak hour traffic in Dubai can be terrifying.

The final type of word we can use as a subject is something called the “understood” subject. This is when the subject is not stated. Take a look at this sentence:

  • Please finish the report by 3 pm tomorrow.

The “understood” subject is you.

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