So, how can you tell what the subject of a sentence is?

So, how can you tell what the subject of a sentence is?


I've never fully understood it. To be honest, I've never been too good with grammar, in English nor in Spanish! I'm not too worried about English though tongue laugh

So, is there some trick to remember or something? I mean, sometimes its quite clear what the subject is, but other times its not.

updated ENE 16, 2010
posted by jever

5 Answers


Subject is the person, thing or idea that either preforms the action expressed by the verb, or the verb refers to it, e.g.:

My brother plays the quitar.

Mi hermano toca la guitarra.

In Spanish it can be a bit complicated, because sometimes you can't exactly point at the subject, as the verb form indicates who performs the action:

Le mandé una carta a mi aimga. (Yo mandé)

I sent a letter to my friend.

You can easily recognise the subject if you ask yourself the question: "Who plays the guitar?" or "Who sent the letter to my friend?"

updated ENE 16, 2010
posted by Issabela
Ah okay! I always got confused and if someone asked me what the subject was, I would probably have said the guitar, or the letter! Silly me :-P - jever, ENE 16, 2010
Hi jever. From the above example. Una carta is the direct object. Mi amiga is the indirect object. - Eddy, ENE 16, 2010

You're absolutely correct. Many times the subject must be taken from previous context as it is not discernible from the stand alone sentence.

We often say that one should avoid using the subject pronoun, but in many verb tenses where the 1st and 3rd person singular verb endings are the same, use of the subject pronoun is necessary unless context will provide the answer.

example: imperfect past tense

estaba- is it 1st person or 3rd person (singular)?

tenía- is it 1st person or 3rd person?

conditional tense:

tendría- is it 1st person or 3rd person?


updated ENE 16, 2010
edited by 0074b507
posted by 0074b507

In the absence of stated subject the, the endings will tell you which subject the verb refers to in Spanish. The only problem is with the third person forms because they correpsond to three subjects.

updated ENE 16, 2010
posted by BellaMargarita

Some tips:

Definition: Subject is the person or thing that perfoms the action expressed by the main verb of the sentence.

1.- Subject agrees in Number &y Person with the main verb. Change the number of the verb and the part of the sentence that changes number also is the subject.

El gato duerme sobre la cama. Los gatos duermen sobre la cama.

2.- Subject usually responds to the question ¿Who? But not always.. El entrenador contrató un nuevo utilero. Who hired...? El entrenador.

3.-Subject is never preceded by a preposition. Susana adora a Carlos. (Carlos preceded by a cannot be the subject here.)

4.- Neither a personal pronoun without stress nor a complement can ever be the subject of a sentence (me, te, lo/s, la/s, le/s, se, nos, os).

Hope it works for you.

updated ENE 16, 2010
edited by Eddy
posted by mediterrunio

The subject is a noun or pronoun which controls the verb, and the direct object is the object of the verb.

Juan (subject) plays the piano.

I (subject) like chocolate.

In English the subject is almost always before the verb, and the direct object is after it. It's a pretty safe rule in Spanish as well.

updated ENE 16, 2010
posted by cdowis
That (SVO) is typical in English, but not so much in Spanish especially with intransitive sentences. I'd say it's not a safe rule in Spanish. You'd never understand the gustar like verbs. - 0074b507, ENE 16, 2010
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