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How to Find a Verb & Predicate in a Sentence


The subject and predicate form the basic structure of the sentence, an important instrument in communication. Every sentence features at least one subject and predicate, with no exceptions. Learning how to recognize subjects and predicates is a crucial step in becoming a fluent and powerful user of language. Beginners should look at many small sentences in order to develop a solid grasp of subject and predicate characteristics. With practice, finding these structures is a breeze.

Look for words that make static objects move, or that clarify the meaning of objects. Many verbs show action. They also frequently feature endings like "-ed" or "-ing." Try adding one of these endings to a word; if the word makes sense with it, it's a verb. Verbs like "is," "are," "feels," "had," and "was" don't show action; they link the object to more information about that object.

For example, examine this phrase:

The extra-large lollipop shattered during its fall.

Here, the static object is a "lollipop." The word that shows active motion is "shattered;" therefore, "shattered" is this sentence's verb.

Look at the following sentence: Candy bars seem really tasty sometimes.

"Candy bars" is the static object here. The word that helps to reveal its tasty meaning is "seem." In this sentence, "seem" is the verb, known as a linking verb.

Analyze this sentence:

Before the competition, the athlete will have been climbing the tree for an hour as a warm-up.

The static object in this sentence is the "athlete." Apparently, he will do something involving a tree. Appearing between the athlete and tree here is "will have been climbing." This phrase, even with multiple words, is the sentence's verb.

Find the subject of a sentence by considering who or what the sentence is about. Subjects are typically nouns or pronouns that are found at the beginning of their sentences.

Look at this sentence: Shellfish frequently burrow under the ocean's sand.

The sentence's verb is "burrow." The words "shellfish" and "frequently" come before the verb. The sentence appears to be about sea life hiding in underwater habitats.

"Frequently" is an adverb and therefore can't be the subject of the sentence. That leaves "shellfish" as this sentence's only possible subject.

Classify the remainder of a sentence as the predicate after you have found its subject. The predicate communicates information about what the subject does, feels, or senses. The simplest possible predicate is a single verb.

Analyze this sentence as an example:

My dog cannot help but to lick my face each time I hug her.

The verb of this sentence is "cannot help but to lick." Its subject is "my dog."

The predicate, then, is "cannot help but to lick my face each time I hug her."

Differentiate between simple and complex (or compound) subjects and predicates. Remove prepositional phrases from sentences to make locating these easier.

Look at this sentence:

The incredulous barhop and the dreamy barmaid in secret love with him finally met while fooling around with hoola hoops one sunny afternoon not that long ago.

Eliminate "in secret love with him" when analyzing this, as it is a prepositional phrase. The primary verb here is "met." There are two subjects in this sentence, making it a compound subject: the barhop and the barmaid.

A compound predicate has more than one verb that acts upon its subject. If the barhop and barmaid not only "met," but also "held" hands, the sentence would then have a compound predicate.

Know that the pronoun "you" is always the subject of imperative sentence.

Dance until you drop: this sentence's verb is "dance," and its subject is the understood "you."

Take care when analyzing sentences that start with "there."

Examine this sentence: There were four little hens clucking for a noontime meal.

The verb here is "were clucking." Ask yourself what "were clucking." In this case, the action was performed by the "four little hens," also known as the sentence's subject.

About the Author

Jeffrey Norman has been writing professionally since 2005. His work has been published in such journals as the "Leland Quarterly" and on the blog, An Apple A Day. Norman earned a Bachelor of Arts in literature and creative writing from Stanford University.

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