Complete Subject in English Grammar

A fox runs in a natural environment
In the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," the complete subject is The quick brown fox.".

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In traditional grammar, a complete subject is made up of a simple subject (usually a single noun or pronoun) and any modifying words or phrases.

Illustrative Definition

As Jack Umstatter has noted, "A complete subject contains all the words that help to identify the main person, place, thing, or idea of the sentence" (Got Grammar?). Put another way, complete subjects are everything in a sentence that's not part of the complete predicate.

Examples and Observations

  • "The complete subject is the person, place, or thing that the sentence is about, along with all the words that modify it (describe it or give more information about it). The complete predicate (verb) is what the person, place, or thing is doing, or what condition the person, place, or thing is in.
    The aged, white-haired gentleman walked slowly down the hall.
    The simple subject of a sentence is the fundamental part of the complete subject—the main noun(s) and pronoun(s) in the complete subject. In this example, the simple subject is gentleman."
    (Susan Thurman and Larry Shea, The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need. Adams Media, 2003)
  • E.B. White
    "Stuart was an early riser; he was almost always the first person up in the morning." –Stuart Little. Harper, 1945
  • Jitka M. Zgola
    "A few residents were early risers who would wander about, hungry and restless, and were usually encouraged by staff to return to bed." –Care That Works. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999
  • Sophie McKenzie
    "I looked down. The pile of magazines was still in my arms." –Six Steps to a Girl. Simon & Schuster, 2007
  • Fern Michaels
    "Some idiot from the city had told him to move his car for the street cleaners." –The Scoop. Kensington, 2009
  • Wayne Lynch
    "The circus was in town. The lions, tigers, and bears were booked under the big top at Convention Hall." –Season of the 76ers. Thomas Dunne, 2002
  • D.J. MacHale
    "Instantly every one of the people in the store moved to the side of the aisle and knelt down to let the dados by." –The Quillan Games. Simon and Schuster, 2006
  • Carlos Castaneda
    "She was about to open the front door, but she stopped short; a most frightening sound came from just outside the door." –The Second Ring of Power. Washington Square Press, 1977
  • Marcus Galloway
    "Everyone in Keith County and even folks from neighboring ones know that there's no real law in that part of the state." –Ralph Compton: Rusted Tin. Signet, 2010
  • Phillip Barrish
    "Wharton's language in the book's final few paragraphs evokes a man finally allowing a mesmerizing film to end, so that he can get up and leave." –White Liberal Identity, Literary Pedagogy, and Classic American Realism. Ohio State University Press, 2005
  • Adam Haslett
    "A breeze moved through the laburnum trees, carrying a sheet of the Sunday paper into the rose border. Mrs. Giles's collie yapped on the other side of the hedge." –"Devotion." The Best American Short Stories 2003, ed. by Walter Mosley and Katrina Kenison. Houghton Mifflin, 2003
  • John Updike
    "Charlie, who in a way enjoyed homework, was ready to join in the angry moan of the others. Little hurt lines had leaped up between Miss Fritz's eyebrows and he felt sorry for her." –"The Alligators." The Early Stories: 1953-1975. Random House, 2003
  • Meg Mullins
    "But now, the sound of the carousel turning and the jingle of his keys in his pocket—keys to the apartment in which there is an empty top drawer awaiting the day when she will deposit the contents of her suitcases into it—are the most benign, comforting sounds in the world." –The Rug Merchant. Viking Penguin, 2006