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    #1

    What is the subject of this sentence?

    Hi,

    Please take a look at the following question and tell me which is the subject and which is the object. Many thanks!

    QUESTION: What is your name?

    I understand this is an object question because an auxiliary verb (is) is used. However, I am not familiar with the parts of speech of object questions. Is "your name" the subject and "what" the object? So for object questions the order is OBJECT+AUXILIARY VERB+SUBJECT? And I guess for other object questions like "What did you do?", the structure would be OBJECT+AUXILIARY VERB+SUBJECT+MAIN VERB?

    Interrogative pronouns or question words CAN serve as the object in a question, right? Your help is greatly appreciated!

    DQ

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    #2

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    What is your name?


    (1) I believe that most grammar guides parse that sentence as:

    Your name = the subject.

    is = the main verb. (It is not an auxiliary in that sentence.)

    what = interrogative pronoun serving as a complement (not "object").

    (a) a complement "completes." If you said only "What is?," that would not be complete. When you add the

    complement "what," then your listener/reader will understand. After linking verbs, grammar guides prefer the

    word "complement," not "object." A complement is necessary to complete the meaning: He is intelligent/ nice, etc.

    An object is not always necessary: I ate./ I ate an apple/ a donut, etc.



    What did you do?

    (2) I believe that you are 100% correct.

    (a) The regular order is: You did do what?

    (i) "what" is the object of the verb "do."

    *****

    NOTES: Professor George Oliver Curme in Volume I of his masterpiece A Grammar of the English Language says that in "What are their names?," the subject is "What." I do not understand his reasoning. (His comments are on page 171.) I am trying to find out why he calls "what" the subject.

    I found very helpful a Google book entitled Grammar for Teachers: A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers (2008) by Ms. Andrea DeCapua. Parts of her book are available on Google "books." Check out her comments on page 252.

    If you find out more information on how to parse "What is your name?," I hope that you will share it with all of us.

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    #3

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Professor George Oliver Curme in Volume I of his masterpiece A Grammar of the English Language says that in "What are their names?," the subject is "What." I do not understand his reasoning. (His comments are on page 171.) I am trying to find out why he calls "what" the subject.
    In the sentence as it stands, 'what' can be taken to be the grammatical subject of the verb 'is'.

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    #4

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    English teacher

    I believe the subject here is “what”.

    Suppose you meet someone whose accent is really fine but you know he’s a foreigner. So you ask, “What is your nationality?” You’re interested in information about the subject of the verb.
    The answer may be, “My nationality (SUBJECT) is (VERB) Italian.”

    “What did your father watch on TV yesterday?” You’re interested in information about the object.
    The answer may be, “He (SUBJECT) watched (VERB) an old film starring Humphrey Bogart. (OBJECT)”

    “What happened?” – “Something terrible (SUBJECT) happened (VERB). A lot of people were killed in a terrorist attack.”

    “What did you talk about?” – “We (SUBJECT) talked (VERB) about our next trip to New York (OBJECT).

    We can also start from the reply and then turn it into the interrogative form with the appropriate question word.

    Something is the matter with my brother. = What is the matter with your brother?
    Someone called me while I was having a shower. = Who called you?

    I hope my suggestions are not absolute rubbish.
    WW
    Last edited by Walt Whitman; 26-Feb-2012 at 12:40.

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    #5

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    In the sentence as it stands, 'what' can be taken to be the grammatical subject of the verb 'is'.
    Would you please explain why " what can be taken to be the grammatical subject of the verb is"?

    (Sadly, Professor Curme did not explain.)

    THANK YOU


    P.S. Someone on the Web wrote that "what" is really the syntactic subject and he linked to Google books to prove the point. It goes without saying that those scholarly books were way over my high school-level head.

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    #6

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by dqdqf View Post
    QUESTION: What is your name?
    why would you need such info?

    would it be possible that 'your' is the subject? (as the answer to 'whose')

    it really beats me though!!

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    #7

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    Would you please explain why " what can be taken to be the grammatical subject of the verb is"?
    My book is on the table.
    What (thing) is on the table?
    Snakes terrify me.
    What terrifies you?

    Do you have any problem with the underlined words as the subject of the verb?

    John is my name
    My name is John
    What is my name?


    I think that what can be taken to be the subject of the verb.

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    #8

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Do you have any problem with the underlined words as the subject of the verb?


    What is my name?


    I think that what can be taken to be the subject of the verb.
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) Thank you VERY MUCH for your reply.

    (2) Of course, I cannot understand why, but I also think "what" is the so-called "subject." My reasoning

    goes like this: What is your name? (Someone answers:"Mona.") Oh, thanks. Mona is your name. Since "Mona" is

    clearly the subject, and "what" is a word that stands in for "Mona" in the same position before the verb "is," I

    assume that "what" is the subject. Probably crazy "reasoning" on my part.

    (3) Nevertheless, 99.99% of (high-school level) teachers tell us to parse it this way:

    What is your name?

    Your name is what. (complement position)
    My name is Mona. (complement position)

    (4) Of course, you and Professor Curme are right.

    (5) But why do "99.99%" of high-school teachers teach us differently? If any of the wonderful learners here

    wrote on their test that "what" is the subject, they would be marked down. And in many countries, a test

    can make or break a student's career.

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    #9

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    There is no 'of course' about Curme and I (me?/my?) being right. You have to test for yourself, and read what others think
    Last edited by 5jj; 02-Mar-2012 at 08:31.

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    #10

    Re: What is the subject of this sentence?

    Hi Walt,

    Parts of speech is my biggest weakness, so I thank you and everyone else who has posted here very much for helping me out.

    Hmm... please allow me to put in some of my thoughts. I think you're talking about two types of direct questions, object questions and subject questions. Object questions, as I understand, contain an auxiliary verb (be/do/can etc). These questions may be, "what is you name?"; "where were you born?"; "what did you study at college?". In subject questions an auxiliary verb is not used and only either what/which/who can serve as the subject (not any other interrogative pronouns). For example, "what happened?", "which company hired you?", "who loves Juliet?" They pretty much follow the SUBJECT+VERB (+OBJECT) order like a simple English sentence. So it follows if there is an auxiliary verb used in a question then what/which/who cannot be the subject. This is why I don't think the "what" in "what is your name" is the subject as it is an object question to me. Does this make any sense to you?

    So after reading everyone's posts, I feel like I'm getting pieces here and there but I still can't put the puzzle together. I am having a hard time convincing myself that the "what" in "what is your name" is the subject. Please let me know what your thoughts are and anyone else can contribute too. Thanks again.

    DQ

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