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    #1

    Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    The heroes of that novel are two doctors.



    I think the simple subject is "doctors," but I could see someone making the argument that "heroes" may be interpreted to function in much the same way, subject-wise.

    I was told that "doctors" could be understood as a predicative nominative, but wouldn't it be the same way the other way around? Is the order in which they appear what determines the final categorization?

    What about these sentences?


    The best player and captain of the softball team is Becky.

    or

    The two tallest people in our class are Janine and T.J.

    Would the subject still be what comes first, or can the names at the end be the subject?
    Last edited by MoonRivers; 06-May-2018 at 21:55.

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    #2

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    These sentences all use forms of the copula, which is "to be". As such, there are two subjects, which are equivalent to each other.
    NOT A TEACHER. Translator and editor, and I hold a TESOL certificate. Native speaker of American English (West Coast)

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    #3

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by bubbha View Post
    These sentences all use forms of the copula, which is "to be". As such, there are two subjects, which are equivalent to each other.
    That makes perfect sense! But, in dealing with strict grammar textbooks, wouldn't one be categorized as a predicative nominative?

    As in...

    He is president.

    Going by the book, he would be the subject, and president would be the predicative nominative. As such, splitting them into categories wouldn't throw me off too much other than the whole names being thrown into the equation and possible compound subjects, as well, in the examples I've provided.

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    #4

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    So, I'm still left confused, although names count as nouns. I have a feeling that there is more to it than simply which construction goes first in the sentence, and the post suggesting that there could be two subjects makes me wonder if that's the case. I would appreciate it if anyone could help out.

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    #5

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by MoonRivers View Post
    What is the simple subject of this sentence?

    The heroes of that novel are two doctors.

    I think the simple subject is "doctors," but I could see someone making the argument that "heroes" may be interpreted to function in much the same way, subject-wise. I was told that "doctors" could be understood as a predicative nominative, but wouldn't it be the same way the other way around? Is the order in which they appear what determines the final categorization?

    What about these sentences? The best player and captain of the softball team is Becky. or The two tallest people in our class are Janine and T.J.

    Would the subject still be what comes first, or can the names at the end be the subject?

    [1] The heroes of that novel are two doctors.

    [2] Two doctors are the heroes of that novel.

    In canonical clauses, the subject always precedes the verb, and hence the subject in [1] is the noun phrase "the heroes of that novel". The head of the noun phrase (your simple subject) is the noun "heroes".

    The preposition phrase "of that novel" is complement of the head, and the noun phrase "two doctors" is subjective predicative complement, which together with the verb "are" forms the predicate of the sentence "are two doctors".

    With specifying predicative complements like this, when we reverse the order we change the functions, so in [2] "two doctors" becomes the subject and "the heroes of that novel" becomes the predicative complement.


    [3] The two tallest people in our class are Janine and T.J.

    [4] Janine and T.J. are the two tallest people in our class.

    Again, this is the specifying use of "be", where subject and predicative complement are reversible: in [3] the subject is "the two tallest people in our class" and in [4] "Janine and T.J. is subject.

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    #6

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulMatthews View Post
    [1] The heroes of that novel are two doctors.

    [2] Two doctors are the heroes of that novel.

    In canonical clauses, the subject always precedes the verb, and hence the subject in [1] is the noun phrase "the heroes of that novel". The head of the noun phrase (your simple subject) is the noun "heroes".

    The preposition phrase "of that novel" is complement of the head, and the noun phrase "two doctors" is subjective predicative complement, which together with the verb "are" forms the predicate of the sentence "are two doctors".

    With specifying predicative complements like this, when we reverse the order we change the functions, so in [2] "two doctors" becomes the subject and "the heroes of that novel" becomes the predicative complement.


    [3] The two tallest people in our class are Janine and T.J.

    [4] Janine and T.J. are the two tallest people in our class.

    Again, this is the specifying use of "be", where subject and predicative complement are reversible: in [3] the subject is "the two tallest people in our class" and in [4] "Janine and T.J. is subject.
    So they can't be understood as two subjects? Just one, depending on the order in which they appear?

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    #7

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by MoonRivers View Post
    So they can't be understood as two subjects? Just one, depending on the order in which they appear?
    I think you can make a case that there are two logical subjects (as opposed to grammatical subjects.)

    What makes you think that doctors is the simple subject, by the way?

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    #8

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I think you can make a case that there are two logical subjects (as opposed to grammatical subjects.)

    What makes you think that doctors is the simple subject, by the way?
    Logic guides language, but when the two are in conflict language rules, because language is a large assembly of informal collective decisions. For example:a friend of hers, an enemy iof mine, a fetish of Jim's. All illogical but nevertheless correct.
    Last edited by probus; 08-May-2018 at 04:18.

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    #9

    Re: Finding Simple Subject in Unusual Sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by MoonRivers View Post
    So they can't be understood as two subjects? Just one, depending on the order in which they appear?

    Yes, that is right.

    Prototypically, a subject appears before the verb, and the verb and its dependents form the predicate.

    The phrase that follows the verb in your examples is not some kind of subject, but a predicative complement. The fact that the order can be reversed in the specifying construction does not mean that there are two subjects.

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