Subjects and Verbs Rules

A subject, along with the verb, completes a sentence. Every sentence must have a subject and a verb.

So, always be looking for the subject in a sentence, because it has to be there somewhere.

In this lesson, we’ll explain how you can identify the main verb and the subject of sentences. If you want to write an effective and clear sentence, you need to include three (3) elements: 1/ Subject, 2/ Main verb, and 3/ A complete thought.

These three elements are the essential parts of our speech and form the building blocks of clear and effective sentences. If you miss one of these elements, you don’t have a sentence, also not when you capitalized the first word and placed a period after the last word.


In sentences, the “who” or “what” of the sentences are the subjects. Subjects are always either nouns or pronouns. Nouns are persons, places, things, or ideas, such as desertbook, Jonny, or freedom. Pronouns refer to and/or restate nouns, such as shehe, they, or it. Let’s look at these examples:

Jonny saw his dad at the library.

In this sentence, “Jonny” is the subject since he is the one that does the action and the sentence’s focus.

The verb in the sentence is “saw”. It is what Jonny was doing: Jonny saw his dad at the library.


We have three (3) major verb types: action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs.

Action Verbs

An action verb tells readers what the sentence’s subject does. Let’s check again this sentence:
Jonny saw his dad at the library.

What is Jonny doing here? Jonny “saw” his dad. So “saw” is an action verb.

Linking Verbs

A linking verb is a word that shows something existing or being, but it doesn’t show that an action is taking place. Most linking verbs are also referred to as the so-called “state of being” verbs that are including these words: isam, was, arewere, feels, seems, becomes, and looks.
A linking verb is not expressing action. Rather than letting us know what the subject of a sentence is (or was) doing, linking verbs tell us what the subject is.

To understand linking verbs better, just think of a math equation like 2+2=4. A linking verb acts like the equal sign but instead of making use of the equal sign, we are substituting the word are or is (linking verbs) and say this: two and two are four.

Look at the following example of a “state of being” verb in this sentence:

Martin is a truly amazing speaker.

The subject in this sentence is Marty and the “state of being” verb is “is”.

Special Linking Verbs
We know also several verbs that may be classified as either linking or action verbs. These are including: look, sound, smell, feel, and taste. If you want to determine if they are action verbs or linking verbs, you first need to find the subject of the sentence.

Then determine whether this subject is actually “doing” what your verb expresses. If not, the verb is a linking verb.


My aunt smelled the roses that her husband gave her for their fifteenth anniversary.

In this example, “aunt” is the sentence’s subject and she actually uses her nose to smell the given roses. So “smelled” is in this example an action verb.

These roses smelled so nice.

In this example, “roses” is the sentence’s subject. Roses don’t have noses to smell, they cannot smell, so “smelled” is a linking verb in this sentence. If you need confirmation of your choice, check if you will be able to substitute “smelled” with is, am, wasare, or were. Yes, you can: “The roses were so nice.

Helping Verbs
A helping verb works with an action verb to indicate what’s going on and to indicate the tense for the situation (past, present, or future).

This table is outlining our language’s 24 helping verbs:

am do might
are does must
be had shall
been has should
being have was
can having were
could is will
did may would


Let’s look at a few sentence examples that use helping verbs:

Jonny will sign up for classes early.

This sentence’s subject is Jonny, the helping verb here is will, and the sentence’s verb is: sign up. Our helping verb is indicating that Jonny’s action will happen in the future.

Our professor had graded our papers already yesterday.

The subject in this example is the “professor”, the sentence’s helping verb is “had”, and the sentence’s verb is “graded”. In this example, our helping verb indicates that the action (grading our papers) happened in the past.

Subject-Verb Agreement Rules

Neither the apples nor the basket is expensive.

Rule: when subjects are joined by or, either…or, neither…nor, the verb must agree with the nearer subject.

Some questions include collective nouns. Many students have trouble with collective nouns and subject-verb agreement.


Rule #1

The subject of a sentence must agree with the verb.

The number of the subject (singular or plural) is not changed by words that come between the subject and the verb.


One of the table legs is broken.

The rhythm of the pounding waves is calming.

All of the dogs in the neighborhood were barking.

Rule #2

Subjects joined by and are usually plural.


My friends and my mother like each other.

The team and the band were on the field.

John or Doris write to us regularly.

Rule #3

Singular subjects joined by or, either . . . or, neither . . . nor take a singular verb.


Jenny or Marie writes to us regularly.

Either Patty or Tom was asked to lead the meeting.

Rule # 4

If one subject is singular and one is plural, the verb agrees with the nearer subject.


Neither the basket nor the apples were expensive.

Neither the cherries nor the basket was expensive.

Rules #5

The verb also agrees with the nearer subject in person.


Either Maria or you were late for class.

Either you or John was late for class.

Rules #6

When used as subjects, such words as each, either, one, everybody, and anyone regularly take singular verbs.


Neither of them likes going to the show.

Each of them has a good seat.

This lesson is a part of our GED Reasoning Through Language Arts Guide.

Last Updated on July 30, 2021.

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