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    #1

    Question What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    "Nearly three teaspoons of sugar come from each beet."

    This is a question in my son's 3rd grade English class. The book says the answer should be "sugar", but I think the correct answer should be "teaspoons". It seems to me that "of sugar" is a prepositional phrase describing the teaspoons. Also, if "sugar" is the subject, wouldn't the verb be "comes" ?

    Way too complicated for third grade, IMHO.

    Thank you in advance!

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    #2

    Exclamation Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by scrabblenut View Post
    "Nearly three teaspoons of sugar come from each beet."

    This is a question in my son's 3rd grade English class. The book says the answer should be "sugar", but I think the correct answer should be "teaspoons". It seems to me that "of sugar" is a prepositional phrase describing the teaspoons. Also, if "sugar" is the subject, wouldn't the verb be "comes" ?

    Way too complicated for third grade, IMHO.

    Thank you in advance!
    The simple way to identify the subject is to ask a question using ‘What’ with the verb. What comes? Answer- Sugar comes. The next question can be: How much sugar comes? A- Nearly three teaspoons sugar come. Not teaspoons and also of sugar is not a prepositional phrase. The whole of “Nearly three teaspoons of sugar” is a noun phrase and acts as subject of the sentence. Please also note three teaspoons of sugar is plural as:
    one grain of wheat (singular) three grains of wheat (plural)
    one glass of milk (singular) four glasses of milk (Plural)
    Last edited by sarat_106; 20-Aug-2009 at 04:18.

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    #3

    Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    I am going to agree with the original poster on this one. "Subject" is a grammatical term rather than a semantic one. The subject in principle is the whole noun phrase "nearly three teaspoons of sugar" (that is, if you like, the answer to the question "what come(s)"). But what is the head of this phrase? In English syntax it is "teaspoons", as shown by the fact that this controls verb agreement (as the original poster noted). And "of sugar", with respect, is a prepositional phrase for my money.

    In other languages, the phrase might well be reanalysed so that "spoonfuls (of)" is a measure word and "sugar" is the head noun. This is a perfectly good way of grouping the expression semantically. But not in English syntax, I don't think, or at least not here.

    (PS - an example of where such a re-analysis does happen in English would be "a lot of". So we would say "a lot of books are boring" rather than "a lot of books is boring".)
    Last edited by orangutan; 19-Aug-2009 at 17:33. Reason: Adding PS

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by scrabblenut View Post
    "Nearly three teaspoons of sugar come from each beet."

    This is a question in my son's 3rd grade English class. The book says the answer should be "sugar", but I think the correct answer should be "teaspoons". It seems to me that "of sugar" is a prepositional phrase describing the teaspoons. Also, if "sugar" is the subject, wouldn't the verb be "comes" ?

    Way too complicated for third grade, IMHO.

    Thank you in advance!
    I agree with orangutan, in case you need a casting vote.
    The 'simple' subject is 'teaspoons'. Teaspoons come.

    I agree that it's advanced for a third grader - perhaps they're over-reacting to not teaching grammar at all for a few decades.

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    #5

    Exclamation Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post
    I am going to agree with the original poster on this one. "Subject" is a grammatical term rather than a semantic one. The subject in principle is the whole noun phrase "nearly three teaspoons of sugar" (that is, if you like, the answer to the question "what come(s)"). But what is the head of this phrase? In English syntax it is "teaspoons", as shown by the fact that this controls verb agreement (as the original poster noted). And "of sugar", with respect, is a prepositional phrase for my money.

    In other languages, the phrase might well be reanalysed so that "spoonfuls (of)" is a measure word and "sugar" is the head noun. This is a perfectly good way of grouping the expression semantically. But not in English syntax, I don't think, or at least not here.

    (PS - an example of where such a re-analysis does happen in English would be "a lot of". So we would say "a lot of books are boring" rather than "a lot of books is boring".)
    I have looked at it from a different angle.
    A sentence should express a complete thought. A phrase is a group of words which acts as a single unit in meaning and in grammar, If that be so, the meaning of the sentence comes from beet which implies sugar beet. And what is a sugar beet?: A form of the common beet (Beta vulgaris) having fleshy white roots from which sugar is obtained.So the central meaning of the sentence is Sugar comes from a beet. How much sugar comes from a single beet? The answer is the example sentence.

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    #6

    Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by sarat_106 View Post
    I have looked at it from a different angle.
    And an interesting one; but one based on semantics, whereas I have tried to suggest that "subject" is a syntactic notion. There are admittedly different definitions of "subject" around, but this seems to be the one the original question was after - what is the syntactic or grammatical subject of the sentence? This is a formal question, and for English at least, one of the main tests for it is normally taken to be subject-verb agreement.

    A sentence should express a complete thought. A phrase is a group of words which acts as a single unit in meaning and in grammar, If that be so, the meaning of the sentence comes from beet which implies sugar beet

    This is questionable. I would say that the semantic core of the sentence is the idea of "coming from" (in the sense of "being extracted from") - a relation which is asserted to hold between two things, sugar and beet. Neither of these two substances has priority over the other in the semantic structure of the sentence.

    So the central meaning of the sentence is Sugar comes from a beet. How much sugar comes from a single beet? The answer is the example sentence.


    Well, yes; but how does this help us identify the grammatical subject of the sentence?

    I look forward to further thoughts.

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    #7

    Exclamation Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by orangutan View Post

    Well, yes; but how does this help us identify the grammatical subject of the sentence?

    I look forward to further thoughts.

    The question here is, what is the simple subject? The rule says, four grammatical forms can perform the grammatical function of subject in the English language. They are (1)Noun phrases (2)Prepositional phrases (3)Verb phrases (4)Noun clauses. Here a noun phrase is the complete subject. And let us know the difference between a complete subject and a simple subject. The complete subject is; who or what is doing the verb plus all of the modifiers [descriptive words] that go with it. The simple subject, on the other hand, is the who or what that is doing the verb without any description.
    If you agree that Sugar comes from a beet , then sugar is the simple subject. So what is the need for further thinking?


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    #8

    Smile Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    I agree that "teaspoons" is the subject. The idea of a "simple subject" has to do with grammar, not meaning.

    I'm not sure of the practicality of identifying the simple subject here. I can see where it can cause confusion. In fact, I would question whether or not this sort of exercise is even beneficial in any way at all. To me, learning grammar means learning to use grammatically correct language for practical purposes. And I would not apply this idea just to ESL-EFL.

    What good does it do to know what the simple subject of a sentence is if one can't write a short paragraph with good punctuation and good sentence formation? Of course, ensuring that one's students can write well instead of doing things like correcting papers that identify simple subjects would mean more work for teachers, wouldn't it? When one corrects such papers, it's a matter of using an answer key and writing check marks and x marks with a red pen. Is that teaching students how to write? Being able to write a good paragraph, for one's age and level, is more important than identifying simple subjects and predicates.

    I'll probably catch some criticism for this opinion, so I'll end by asking a question: Does identifying simple subjects, and other such similar exericises, have any practial bearing on being able to write well? Is it practical at all? Is it useful? Please, explain. Maybe you'll change my mind. I have an open mind.


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    #9

    Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by sarat_106 View Post
    The question here is, what is the simple subject? The rule says, four grammatical forms can perform the grammatical function of subject in the English language. They are (1)Noun phrases (2)Prepositional phrases (3)Verb phrases (4)Noun clauses. Here a noun phrase is the complete subject. And let us know the difference between a complete subject and a simple subject. The complete subject is; who or what is doing the verb plus all of the modifiers [descriptive words] that go with it. The simple subject, on the other hand, is the who or what that is doing the verb without any description.
    If you agree that Sugar comes from a beet , then sugar is the simple subject. So what is the need for further thinking?
    I realize it's not logical to think, or express, that a measurement, such as "teaspoons" , comes from something without attributing that measurement to something, but in keeping with the logic of grammar, that's what's happening here: "teaspoons come from beets" - "three teaspoons come from beets" - "nearly three teaspoons of sugar come from each beet".

    Of course, we get sugar from beets; teaspoons alone don't come from beets.

    Sugar comes from beets. - "Sugar" is the simple subject in this sentence.

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    #10

    Re: What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    I realize it's not logical to think, or express, that a measurement, such as "teaspoons" , comes from something without attributing that measurement to something, but in keeping with the logic of grammar, that's what's happening here: "teaspoons come from beets" - "three teaspoons come from beets" - "nearly three teaspoons of sugar come from each beet".

    Of course, we get sugar from beets; teaspoons alone don't come from beets.

    Sugar comes from beets. - "Sugar" is the simple subject in this sentence.
    I agree with sarat_106 that the noun phrase "Nearly three teaspoons of sugar" is the subject, and, like PROESL I doubt the practicality of asking a student to identify the simple subject, which for the sentence to make any sense, would have to be 'sugar'; whatever about verb subject agreement.

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