Syntactic Theory

The Subject

Test for identifying subjects in English

  • Agreement: In a finite sentence, the main verb agrees with the subject.
    Pat writes/*write letters to his friends.
  • Tag question: The pronoun that occurs in a tag question refers to the subject.
    John wrote a letter to his sister, didn't he/ *she/ *they?
  • Subject-auxiliary inverions: In forming a yes/no question, an auxiliary is placed directly before the subject.
    Will Pat write a letter?

Categories and structural position

  • Only an NP or an S' can be the subject of a clause.
  • The subject of a clause S is the NP or S' that is immediately dominated by that S node and that precedes the VP (or AuxP) of the clause.

         /    \
      subj     \
       /        \  
     NP   ______AuxP________
    /__\ /__________________\
    Pat  will write a letter.

Read further on other grammatical functions:

Categories: Glossary