This week, I was very happy to see Rachel post a short tutorial on the subjects of sentences. This is a simple concept, but one that is very easy to get wrong in English. English is different from many other languages, because in both clauses and sentences, English nearly always demands a subject.
This is true even when a sentence might not have a subject in another language. For instance, if the weather is rainy a Spanish speaker might say “esta lloviendo,” which translates literally into English as “is raining.” And in Korean, you could say something along the lines of “비가,” which translates to just “raining.” But in English, we need a subject; we need to say “it is raining.” There is no “doer”… rain just happens. And yet we still need a subject, so we use “it.”
So it’s good to do some writing practice that focuses on subjects, especially if your native tongue is an East Asian or Romance language. (Or one of the many other languages where it’s easier to drop the subject than it would be in English.)
To practice using subjects in English, look at the complex cartoon drawing I made below (originally created for the Caddo Parish School District), and do the related activities below the drawing.
ACTVITY 1: Numbered Subjects
Look at each numbered item in the fantasy illustration above. Then write a sentence for each item, using the item as the subject. I’ve completed three examples for you, with the subjects in bold.
(1) The dragon has butterfly wings.
(4) The fly suddenly dies.
(6) Mushrooms like this one are fun to sleep under.
(Feel free to come up with your own examples for 1, 4, and 6 as you write all 12 sentences. Be creative!)
ACTIVITY 2: Writing Outside the Numbers
Now, write some sentences where the subject is not one of the numbered objects, or where the subject is abstract, not referring to a physical object in the picture. I’ve written two example sentences below, with the subjects in bold.
Not numbered in the picture: The water has frogs, fish, and funny-looking people in it.
Abstract subject: Things are happening all over the place in this picture.
ACTIVITY 3: Paragraph Writing
In the last two activities, you paid special attention to sentence subjects. Now you’re able to do longer, more complete English writing with properly formed sentences. Write a paragraph describing the picture, and put the subject of each sentence in bold. Or write a short story—2 paragraphs or longer—based on the picture. Again, put the sentence subjects in bold. Have fun!