All clauses in English have at least two parts: a noun phrase and a verb phrase

Noun phrase (subject) Verb phrase
The children
All the people in the bus
laughed
were watching

But most clauses have more than two parts:

 

Noun phrase (subject) Verb phrase    
The children
John
All of the girls
This soup
Mary and the family
She
laughed
wanted
are learning
tastes
were driving
put

a new bicycle
English
awful
to Madrid
the flowers




 
in a vase

The first noun phrase is the subject of the sentence:

The children laughed.
John wanted a new bicycle.
All the girls are learning English.
She put the flowers in the vase.

English clauses always have a subject:

His father has just retired. Was a teacher. He was a teacher.
I’m waiting for my wife. Is late. She is late.

… except for the imperative which is used to give orders:

Stop!
Go away.

… and for "soft imperatives" like invitations and requests:

Please come to dinner tomorrow.
Play it again please.

If we have no other subject we use "there" or "it" as subject. We call this a ‘dummy subject’:

There were twenty people at the meeting..
There will be an eclipse of the moon tonight.

It’s a lovely day.
It’s nearly one o’clock.
I have toothache. It hurts a lot.

Exercise

Comments

Hello chancornelius,

In this sentence, 'that table' is the direct object of an imperative verb. Imperative verbs don't really have a subject. There is an unstated subject ('you'), i.e. the person whom the command is directed to, but not the kind of subject that a normal declarative sentence has.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.I have one question,why the subject of the sentence: 'This is the first time I have driven one of these.' is 'This' ?
Is that a dummy subject?

Hello spasiczorica,

The only dummy subjects in English are 'it' and 'there'. The word 'this' here is not a dummy subject, but rather a normal subject which has a deictic meaning. In other words, it refers to something which cannot be understood without knowing the context in which the sentence is spoken. You can read more about these kinds of words here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi,

this is the sentence i found and got a question about.

In fact, this is a government that came to power looking to avoid starting a challenging structural makeover while the economy, perkier for months until going into its current more quiescent mode, eased toward a recovery.

am i right about the following.
came to power looking to avoid starting a challenging structural makeover - refers government.

perkier for months until going into its current more quiescent mode - economy

eased toward a recovery - economy.

if i'm right , why don't the info about economy is structured same as the info about government . that's using 'that'.

thankyou

Hi sivagettoknow,

First of all, you are correct in your analysis of the sentence - well done.

With regard to your second question, it is possible to structure the sentence in different ways - these are choices for the speaker. The structure with 'that' is a defining relative clause (for more information on relative clauses, see here, here and here). The clause describing the economy as 'perkier', however, could be put into a non-defining relative clause and then we would use 'which' rather than 'that'. The sentence would look like this:

In fact, this is a government that came to power looking to avoid starting a challenging structural makeover while the economy, which was perkier for months until going into its current more quiescent mode, eased toward a recovery.

We can use 'which' or 'that' (or 'who' for people) in defining relative clauses, but only 'which' (or 'who' for people) in non-defining relative clauses.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi peter ,
thank you for writing. i'll check those links you shared. i've problems using relative clauses, especially when wirting. For instance, "john goes to church on every sunday" . now i want to rewrite this sentence with some definitive or indefinitve information about both "he" and "temple". like

john ,who is a receptionist , goes to church,that is located at wellington, on every sunday.

your suggestions on reformation of this and correct me if im wrong.

aret those links enough to master relative clauses? if not , where i could learn about clean sentence formation of any complexity.

thank you
siva

Hi sivagettoknow,

I'm not sure about whether any material is enough to 'master' relative clauses because it is a question not only of knowledge but of practice. However, those pages will certainly provide you with the information your require.

As far as your sentence goes, it is generally good. However, there are one or two problems.

First, the phrase 'go to church' refers to the activity of participating in a mass, not visiting the building. Therefore we would not use a relative clause describing the location of the building after this phrase. You would need to add an article before 'church' to make it clear that you are talking about the building, not the mass. If you change the sentence to talk about something else then the sentence becomes easier to form.

Second, we do not use 'that' in non-defining relative clauses. You can only use 'that' in defining relative clauses. In non-defining relative clauses you can use 'which', for example.

There are some other problems with punctuation and prepositions - see the sentence below.

John, who is a receptionist, goes to the restaurant that is located in Wellington every Sunday.

Here the relative clause 'that is located in Wellington' tells us which restaurant he goes to. It is a defining relative clause identifying the restaurant.

John, who is a receptionist, goes to a restaurant, which is located in Wellington, every Sunday.

Here the relative clause 'which is located in Wellington' is simply interesting extra information. It could be removed from the sentence without changing the basic meaning of the sentence.

 

Good luck with your study of this subject. Please note that we cannot usually comment in this way for individual users, however. We have many thousands of users and it is not possible for us to provide such detailed commentary for them all!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I have sentence: The guy you were talking about just called. Why we do not need to put comma between ''about'' and ''just''?
Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

Although it might be used in other languages, in English, I can't think of any reason to use a comma between 'about' and 'just'. You might want to read the Oxford Dictiony page on using commas for more on the topic in general.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Mary, who has two young children, has a part-time job in the library.
The boy who was hungry, ate his lunch.

Why do we not use a comma in the second sentence between ''boy'' and ''who'' but we use it in the first?

Thank you.

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