In this lesson, we study the compound subject construction, a writing technique whereby multiple subjects are assigned responsibility for a common action.
Definition of Compound Subject
Every valid sentence in the English language is composed of two essential components: a subject and a predicate. The subject is the agent carrying out the action that the sentence describes, while the predicate is the action itself. For example, in the sentence ‘Jake waters the lawn,’ ‘Jake’ is the subject, and the thing he’s doing, ‘waters the lawn,’ is the predicate.Sometimes, however, an author wishes to compose a sentence in which multiple subjects are involved in a given action and uses what is called a compound subject.
To create a compound subject, multiple subjects are connected by a conjunction. Most commonly, the words ‘and’ or ‘or’ are used, though some sentences require a ‘neither…nor’ construction.If we were to use a compound subject in the earlier example, we might say, ‘Jake and Billy water the lawn,’ with the predicate still being ‘water the lawn’, but the subject is now compound and includes both Jake and Billy.
Compound Subject Examples
Most commonly, a compound subject will use the conjunction ‘and’ to connect its two subjects, indicating that they are performing a given action together. Notice in each of the following sentences that multiple parties are coming together to carry out a common action:Bill and Linda cleaned their garage.The dog and the cat fought in the yard.The doctor, the nurses, and other hospital staff worked tirelessly to save the patient’s life.Sometimes, one subject from a set of potential subjects will carry out an action, but they won’t carry out that action together. To communicate this, the conjunction ‘or’ is used:Paul or Jeremy will take out the trash.
Bears or raccoons will pillage the cooler.Wasps or termites seem to have eaten this log.Finally, when none of the subjects from a set of potential subjects will carry out an action, a ‘neither…nor’ construction is used:Neither Dale nor Andrew completed the assignment.Neither rain nor snow can keep us from golfing.Neither Honda nor Toyota makes a fast enough sports car.
Every valid sentence in the English language is composed of a subject, the agent carrying out the action, and a predicate, the action itself. There are instances where multiple subjects are involved in a common action, which is called a compound subject. To create a compound subject, these multiple subjects are combined by a conjunction. The most common conjunctions are ‘and’ and ‘or’ and sometimes ‘neither…nor.’ ‘And’ is used when two or more subjects are carrying out a common action. ‘Or’ is used when the two or more potential subjects will carry out a common action, but not together. Finally, ‘neither…nor’ is used to communicate that none of the potential subjects will carry out an action.