What are Simple, Complete Subjects? Definition and Examples of English Subjects

Simple subject definition: A simple subject is a main word or words that tell what or whom a sentence discusses, not including any modifiers.

Complete subject definition: A complete subject is all of the words that tell what or whom a sentence discusses, including any modifiers.

What is a Simple Subject?

What does simple subject mean? A simple subject is a main word or words that tell whom or what a sentence discusses.

The simple subject is only who or what is “doing” the verb, without any modifiers.

what is simple subject of a sentenceSimple Subject Examples:

  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
    • In this sentence, “Thomas Edison” is “doing” the verb, “invented.”
    • Thomas Edison is the simple subject.
  • Monkeys scare me.
    • In this sentence, “monkeys” are “doing” the verb, “scare.”
    • Monkeys is the simple subject.

What is a Complete Subject?

What does complete subject mean? A complete subject is all of the words that tell whom or what a sentence discusses.

The complete subject is who or what is “doing” the verb, including any modifiers.

what are simple subjects and simple predicateComplete Subject Examples:

  • The mangy old dog limped down the alley.
    • In this sentence, the “dog” is “doing” the verb, “limped.”
    • Modifiers to “dog” include “the mangy old.”
    • “The mangy old dog” is the complete subject.
  • Three cardboard boxes remained in the vacant house.
    • In this sentence, “boxes” are “doing” the verb, “remained.”
    • Modifiers to “boxes” include “three cardboard.”
    • “Three cardboard boxes” is the compound subject.

Simple Subject vs. Complete Subject

what is a simple subject and simple predicateA few additional examples will help clarify the difference between simple and complete subjects.

What is the simple subject of the following sentence?

The mangy old dog limped down the alley.

  • The simple subject of the sentence is “dog.”
  • The modifiers for dog include “the mangy old.”
  • The complete subject is the bold terms, “the mangy old dog.”

Let’s look at another example. What is the simple subject in this sentence?

Three cardboard boxes remained in the vacant house.

  • The simple subject of the sentence is “boxes.”
  • The modifiers for boxes include “three cardboard.”
  • The complete subject is the bold terms, “three cardboard boxes.”

examples of complete subjects and examples of simple subjectsAs you can see, the difference between the simple subject and complete subject is quite clear. The simple subject is just the subject, nothing else. The complete subject is the simple subject along with any other modifiers.

Outside Examples:

Let’s look at a few outside examples. The simple subject is in bold and the complete subject is underlined.

  • A subcommittee of the Chicago City Council approved the “Rideshare Reform” proposal unanimously Friday, and the measure faces a full vote from the council as soon as Wednesday. –USA Today
  • The real estate firm was founded in 2005. Shah said the private company’s goal is to eventually become a publicly traded real estate investment trust, and it wants to buy additional hotels on Long Island. –Newsday

Neither Will be a Part of a Prepositional Phrase

Neither a simple nor a complete subject will be part of a prepositional phrase.

Choose the simple-subject in the following sentenceA prepositional phrase starts with a preposition and ends with a noun. Sometimes, prepositional phrases are placed very near a subject and seem like they are part of a subject. However, they are not.

Example:

  • Near the door the cat
    • The italicized terms are a prepositional phrase. Even though they are close to the subject, the cat, they are not a part of the subject. “Near the door” does not describe the cat but explains the cat’s location.
  • Neither of our cars is worth much money.
    • The italicized terms are a prepositional phrase. In this case, the prepositional phrase comes after the subject. “Neither” is the subject here.

Summary: What are Complete and Simple Subjects?

Define simple subject: The definition of a simple subject is the single word that is performing the action in a sentence.

Define complete subject: The definition of a complete subject is the subject of a sentence as well as any modifiers attached to it.

To summarize, a simple subject is only the main word or words “doing” the action of the sentence. A complete subject is the main word or words including any modifiers “doing” the action of the sentence.