Subject Identification Definition and Exercises

Finding Subjects

Finding subjects is easy once you have found the verb in the sentence.

  1. Subjects usually come before verbs.
  2. The subject is the word that you find when you ask the question:
    (Who or What) + (Verb) + (The rest of the sentence)?

Let's take our first example:

 Taking dangerous risks seems to frighten most hardworking people.

What + Verb + The rest of the Sentence?

(What) seems to frighten most hardworking people?

The answer is: Taking dangerous risks.

So "Taking dangerous risks" is the subject of the sentence. Let's go back to exercise #1 where you already found the verbs and find the subjects of those verbs.


Finding Subjects: Exercise #1



  1. We hear a lot of talk about the American melting pot.
    (Who) hears a lot of talk about the American melting pot?
    Answer: We = Subject
  2. Here, in our neighborhood, the melting pot exists.
    (What) exists?
    Answer: The melting pot = Subject
  3. But in other neighborhoods, people raised their children to reject their cultures.
  4. The newspapers are full of stories about hatred and violence.
  5. The old immigrants are suspicious of the new immigrants.
  6. The new immigrants think that the old ones are bigots.
  7. In our neighborhood, I lived near a lot of old Italians.
  8. My Italian neighbors complained about the other groups living in the area.
  9. They never blamed me for anything.
  10. They liked me. Therefore, I was not one of "the others."

The subject of a sentence can never be found within a prepositional phrase. 
Prepositions are little words that introduce nouns. Here is a list:
About Above Across 
After Against Along 
Among Around As 
At Before Behind 
Below Beneath Beside 
Between Beyond By 
Down During Except 
For From In 
Inside Into Like 
Near Next Of Off 
On Out Over 
Past Since Through 
To Toward Under 
Until Up With 
Prepositional phrases are a combination of a preposition + a noun

In our neighborhood To the best Of my ability

Finding Subjects in Prepositional Phrases

Exercise Part A. Put brackets around the prepositional phrases in the following paragraph. The first sentence is done for you.

 [At the age] [of twelve] I won the swimming award [at the Lions Camp] [for
Crippled Children]. When my name echoed over the PA system the girl in the
wheelchair next to me grabbed the speaker of my hearing aid and yelled, "You
Won!" I was the only physically unencumbered child in a sea of braces and canes. I
was ashamed of this, so I limped on my way to the stage. The truth was that I was
ashamed of my handicap. I wanted to be in the same category as the girl who had
lost her leg in an accident. In my eyes deafness was not a desirable handicap.

Finding Subjects Exercise

Underline all the subjects in the following paragraph. Remember that subjects cannot be found in prepositional phrases.

  1. Sports have many benefits for our lives.
  2. They help us develop strong bodies and they make us independent.
  3. Competition teaches us about fair play and sportsmanship.
  4. When people play sports regularly, they live longer lives with healthier hearts.
  5. Excelling at sports makes us proud of ourselves and losing sometimes motivates us to do better…
  6. But not all of us agree that sports are beneficial for kids.
  7. Parents get too involved in their children’s success at times.
  8. They argue and cause problems at their children’s games.
  9. They blame their kids when the kids lose or play poorly.
  10. This causes children to feel low self-esteem.

Exercise: Finding Subjects

Exercise #1

Read the following paragraph and underline the subjects. Some sentences will have more than one subject.

Cartoon superheroes are made up of a number of common traits. They have

extraordinary powers and abilities. They vary greatly, but superhuman strength, the

ability to fly and the ability to project energy are often common. Batman and Green

Hornet possess no superpowers but they know martial arts. Most superheroes risk

their own safety in the service of good. Many refuse to kill an opponent, even

though they threaten the safety of others. Many superheroes use a descriptive or

symbolic code name. A supporting cast of characters includes the hero’s friends and

family. Superheroes often have a secret headquarters or base. Female characters

include Invisible Woman, Black Canary and Raven. Some examples of non-Caucasian

characters are the Black Panther, Shang Chi and Cyborg. 

Exercise #2

In the following paragraph:

  1. Put brackets around the prepositional phrases.
  2. Single underline the subjects.

The Chinese animal signs are a 12 year cycle dating the years. They represent a circular

concept of time. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the calendar falls between late

January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar except for

festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Each of the animal signs has a

horoscope. A Pig and an Ox bring prosperity. Tigers have magnetic personalities with others

while Rabbits are unhappy with strangers. Dragons lose their tempers easily. Snakes lean

toward elegance and expensiveness while Rats tend to budget carefully. Roosters begin

many projects at one time to keep busy Dogs and Horses react unpredictably but they form

good relationships with others. Monkeys project an image of mischief, and Sheep resent

being led by others.

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