The Parts of a Sentence

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

What makes a sentence complete? Do all languages have these same components?

Here is a basic sentence in English: 'I read'.

This very short sentence has only two parts. They are the subject ('I') and the verb ('read').


Verb structures are central to language. They describe being and doing. Every language uses verbs because human communication essentially deals with what is or what happens.


The subject is the person, place, thing or idea that is or does the verb.

I read.

My sister teaches.

Australia is fascinating.

The shop closed.

Computers restart.

Friendship matters.

Subjects are necessary in English sentences

The subject is essential in English grammar. In every complete sentence in English, there must be a subject before the verb.

This is not true in every language. Many languages give the meaning of the subject by changing the verb. In Spanish, for example, the verb changes for different types of subject.

I live = vivo

you live = vives

These verb changes, or conjugations, mean that it is not always necessary to include a subject word. Subjects can be used in these languages, and often are, but they are very flexible and can move around the different parts of the sentence. English is different because in English, the verb often does not change for different subjects.

I live

you live

we live

they live

Because of its unchanging verbs, English needs subject words to give meaning. That is why any English sentence sounds wrong with no subject. It is also very important for the subject to be in the same place every time so we can immediately recognise it.

Subjects are so important in English that we always use them, even they don't give much extra meaning.

It’s raining.

We use 'it' even though we cannot name who or what is raining.

See this article on the grammatical subject to learn more on the topic.

Additional information

Sentences like 'I read' are short and rare. We normally give more information than this.

I read Harry Potter books.

I read every evening.

I read very fast.

I read with my husband.

Once the necessary subject and verb are there, it is common to give more detail after the verb.

This extra information is sometimes needed, but it is not always essential like the subject and verb structure are.

Do you have a question about linguistics or the language industry? Ask Shana to learn more.

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