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A predicate is a necessary component of each sentence, so it’s important to know what one is and how to identify one. This lesson goes over the basics of predicates as well as how knowing about them can help answer other grammatical questions.

What Goes Into a Sentence?

Of all the grammar rules flying around out there, there’s one that may be the most important of them all. That rule is that for a sentence to be complete, it must contain a subject and a verb.

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The subject of a sentence is what the sentence is about. The subject usually, though not always, performs the action of the verb. Remember that a verb expresses an action or occurrence.

An example of a really simple complete sentence would be, ‘Sally screamed.’This sentence is as basic as they come, but even at just two words, it’s a complete sentence with a subject performing an action. Let’s make our simple sentence a bit more complicated: ‘My silly sister Sally screamed at the mailman.

‘We now have more than just a simple subject, Sally. The entire phrase, ‘My silly sister Sally’ is our complete subject. A complete subject includes the simple subject as well as all of the describing words that go along with it. Our complete subject in this sentence includes the descriptive phrase, ‘My silly sister.’So, now that we know what our complete subject is, what is all the other stuff in the sentence? The rest of the sentence, ‘screamed at the mailman,’ is the predicate. The predicate in a sentence expresses what the subject does. The predicate in a sentence also always includes a verb.

You can have a predicate that consists of just the verb, or it can consist of the verb as well as the descriptive words that come along with it.We can build on our earlier rule that states that for a sentence to be complete, it must contain a subject and a verb and say that a complete sentence must include a subject and a predicate. This rule still essentially says the same thing because a predicate can be just a verb by itself or a verb with some additional description. In other words, a predicate could be just the word ‘screamed,’ or the phrase ‘screamed at the mailman.’ In our second example, the phrase ‘screamed at the mailman’ would be our complete predicate, which would consist of the verb as well as the descriptive words that go along with it.

Predicate Basics

Now that we know what a predicate is, what can we do that we couldn’t do before? Understanding the basics of what a predicate is and what it does in a sentence is not some hugely complicated task that will unlock all of life’s great grammar mysteries for you.

What it will do is help you grasp the basics of what goes into a complete sentence, so you can be extra sure that your sentences are written the right way.It’s important to be familiar with basic grammatical terms so that you know what you’re working with. The term ‘subject’ will likely come up a lot more than will ‘predicate’ when you discuss writing effective sentences. But, you’ll want to know the difference between the two, how to identify each and how they are both essential within a sentence.

There’s one cool trick that you can do once you know what a predicate is and how to find it in a sentence. When you answer the phone and someone asks for you by name, do you say, ‘This is she,’ or ‘This is her’?Here’s how you figure it out. When you have a linking verb like ‘is’ – or another form of the verb ‘to be’ – and you have a noun or pronoun following that linking verb, you need that noun or pronoun to be in the subjective, or nominative, case. For example, pronouns in the subjective, or nominative, case would include:

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • They

Note that these subjective, or nominative, case pronouns can be subjects in sentences. We could say, ‘I screamed.’ ‘You screamed.’ ‘He screamed.

‘ ‘She screamed.’ ‘It screamed.’ ‘We screamed,’ or ‘They screamed.’ We couldn’t use many other pronouns as subjects, though. We wouldn’t say, ‘Me screamed.’ ‘Him screamed.

‘ ‘Her screamed.’ ‘Us screamed,’ or ‘Them screamed.’So, let’s revisit our rule that when you have a linking verb like ‘is’ – or another form of the verb ‘to be’ – and you have a noun or pronoun following that linking verb, you need that noun or pronoun to be in the subjective, or nominative case. It deals with predicate nominatives. That term is what we use to refer to the nouns or pronouns that we use following the linking verb in a sentence.

Because we need a nominative case pronoun, we know that we need to say, ‘This is she,’ or ‘This is he,’ when you’re answering the phone. Similarly, the next time that you come home, you can confidently and correctly announce, ‘It is I!’, safe in the knowledge that ‘is I’ is the complete predicate of your sentence, and because ‘I’ is a subjective, or nominative, case pronoun following the linking verb ‘is,’ you’ve correctly followed the predicate nominative rule.

Lesson Summary

For a sentence to be complete, it must contain a subject and a verb. The subject of a sentence is what the sentence is about. The subject usually, though not always, performs the action of the verb.

Remember that a verb expresses an action or occurrence.The predicate in a sentence expresses what the subject does. The predicate in a sentence also always includes a verb. You can have a predicate that consists of just the verb, or it can consist of the verb as well as the descriptive words that come along with it. A complete predicate consists of the verb as well as the descriptive words that go along with it. Remember that a complete sentence must include a subject and a predicate.

When you have a linking verb like ‘is’ – or another form of the verb ‘to be’ – and you have a noun or pronoun following that linking verb, you need that noun or pronoun to be in the subjective, or nominative, case. For example, pronouns in the subjective, or nominative, case would include:

  • I
  • You
  • He
  • She
  • It
  • We
  • They

This last rule deals with predicate nominatives. That term is what we use to refer to the nouns or pronouns that we use following the linking verb in a sentence. That’s how we know to announce, ‘It is I,’ instead of ‘It’s me,’ when we walk into a room.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this lesson, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify what a sentence must contain in order to be considered complete
  • Explain what predicates and complete predicates are
  • List subjective pronouns
  • Describe the rule that deals with predicate nominatives and linking verbs

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