The Subject of a verb is normally the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that names the ‘do-er’ or ‘be-er’. The Subject’s normal position is:

  • just before the verb in a statement
  • just after the auxiliary verb, in a question.

Unlike the verb’s Object and Complement, the Subject can determine the form of the verb (e.g. I am, you are).

  • Rula’s mother went out.
  • That is uncertain.
  • The children will study the animals.
  • Will the children study the animals?

'Subject' is a function label for an element in the clause which often identifies the agent that carries out the action expressed by the main verb. However, not all Subjects denote agents (e.g. in Linda felt tired, Linda is not really a 'do-er' - she is not carrying out an action), so the Subject is better defined in terms of grammatical properties. These include its typical position in the clause, and the way it shows agreement with the verb in person and number.

Building characters

Analysing the language of characters in a literary text


  • Understand some of the ways that writers use language to create characters
  • Analyse the use of language in a literary text

Lesson Plan

  • You could start by asking students to think about some of the ways that writers use language to create fictional characters. What makes a convincing character? What are some of their favourite characters from fiction, and why?
  • Next, talk students through the first passage from Jekyll & Hyde.

Building characters: Activity

This extract is from later in the novel, where Mr. Hyde attacks a stranger in the street. Read it through, and think:

Subject-Verb Agreement

In this lesson, students select the correct verb to compose an acceptable sentence.


  • Practise composing sentences with appropriate Subject-Verb agreement.
  • Identify acceptable patterns in Standard English.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will select the correct verb on the smart board, to construct acceptable sentences.

Subject-Verb Agreement: 'Be' verbs

really weird.

Agents or non-agents?

In each of these examples the Subject is highlighted. For each one, decide whether or not the Subject identifies an agent (or more than one agent) who carries out an action.

Identify the Subject

Find the Subject in a range of examples

Identify the Subject in each of the following clauses. Click on the word (or words) that comprise the Subject of each clause to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the Subjects

Find the Subject in a range of examples

Identify the Subject in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) that comprise the Subject to select or deselect them.

Active and passive

Consider the two sentences below. What is the difference between them?

  1. The council workers cleared the path.
  2. The path was cleared by the council workers.

The same event is taking place in both sentences, but the sentences have been expressed in different ways.

In the first example the focus is on what the council workers did (they cleared the path), whereas in the second example, the focus is on what happened to the path (it was cleared by the council workers).

Grammatical functions in the clause

The description of word classes, phrases, and clauses in terms of their structure is part of the study of form. We now turn to the study of grammar from the perspective of function: this notion refers to what words, phrases and clauses do as units of language.


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