Identifying Verbs, Subjects, and Prepositional PhrasesEvery sentence in English must have at least one verb and one subject. When you identify the verb first, it is much easier to find the subject of the sentence. The verb in a sentence is always related to
the subject. The subject usually appears in front of the verb. Since the verb expresses what the subject does or is, verbs either express:
Action (eat, stop, help, buy, make, do, gain, succeed)
• State of being (am/is/are/were, become, seem, look, appear, taste, sound, remain)
• Mental states (know, think, feel, remember, believe)
If a verb consists of only one word, it is automatically the “main verb.” However, sometimes the main verb has “helping verbs” that go along with it.
Together with the main verb, they make up the
“complete verb phrase.” It is possible to have more than one helping verb, so the verb phrase can be four or five words long.
Main verb (if alone) = the complete verb
Example: I study every day.
Helping/modal verbs + main verb = the complete verb phrase
Example: I should study every day.
It is easier to recognize the subject or subjects of sentences when you find the verb first. The subject of the sentence usually
• Occurs before the verb
• Tells who or what does the action or expresses the state of being or state of mind
Tip: Subjects are either nouns or pronouns. Many nouns have a determiner such as a, an, or the. Other determiners are possessive nouns, possessive pronouns, and numbers (student’s, her, those, seventeen). If you aren’t sure if a word is a noun, try using a determiner with it or making it plural or possessive. If you can, you’ve identified a noun; then you need to decide if it is the subject
of the verb. Remember that the –ing form of a verb can act as a noun (Studying math and science opens doors to many careers.) and be
the subject of a sentence.
Common PrepositionsIn some sentences, nouns or pronouns in prepositional phrases can be confused with the subject. For this reason, it is easier to identify nouns that are subjects if you first identify the prepositional phrases in sentences by putting parentheses around them. Remember that a prepositional phrase may contain one or more nouns or pronouns.
about before down off toward(s)
above behind during on under
across below for out until
after beneath from over up
against beside(s) in since upon
along between into through with
among beyond like throughout within
around by near till without
at despite of to
Two-word and Three-word Prepositions
as many as
in place of
as much as
by means of
in spite of
as well as
on account of
in addition to
on top of