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If I say:

My sister can drive the car today

Which is the subject: sister or car? Also, what do you call the one which is not the subject?

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    Ask yourself who's performing the action. That's the subject. The one that has the action performed on itself is the object, in this case the direct object. – deadrat Oct 2 '15 at 0:25
  • So, the sister will be doing the action, so she is the subject. And the car is the thing the action (driving) will be performed on, so it is the object. Am I understanding? – Jason T Featheringham Oct 2 '15 at 0:29
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    Yes. The general case is more complicated because not all verbs are transitive or in the active voice. And not all subjects are simple nouns or noun phrases. I tried to lay out some rules here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/277004/…. Take a look and tell me whether it's helpful. – deadrat Oct 2 '15 at 0:56
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    @deadrat The car was driven by my sister. sister is performing the action, but it is not the subject. Car is being performed on, but it is the subject. – bib Oct 2 '15 at 1:02
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Subjects in English generally come before the verb. The verb can have "other things" near it, words like have, can, should, was, etc. The subject can be things other than a noun, such as car, tree, or Bob. They can be words like "skiing" "going" or "eating." The basic sentence pattern in English is Subject + Verb + Object. The object is usually the thing acted upon by the subject. Sentences do not always have direct objects or even subjects. "I am eating right now." does not have an object. "right now." is not something that you can eat.

In "Bob eats a corn dog." "corn dog" is the direct object. In "Bob gave Cindy a corn dog." "corn dog" is still the object. "Cindy" is called an indirect object. She received the object. We know this because we can put "to" after Cindy as in "Bob gave (to) Cindy a corn dog." That's a bit awkward sounding so we reverse the sentence, "Bob gave a corn dog to Cindy."

I go into a bit of extra detail for you because indirect and direct objects are things which confuse learners or native speakers when learning grammar. I sometimes have to stop and "figure things out" in a sentence, so don't feel bad.

In your sentence, "My sister can drive the car today." "My sister" is the complete subject, "my" is a possessive pronoun, "can drive" is the complete verb. "Can" is a modal that tells more info about drive. "Can" is sometimes referred to as an auxiliary or helping verb. "The" is a definite article (telling which car), "car" is the direct object, and "today" is a word that can be either a noun ("Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.") or, as in your example, an adverb telling more about drive. Adverbs can sometimes answer "how?" "when?" and "why?" questions. The word "today" could be confusing...maybe "today" is "the other thing." It is not.

Hope this helps.

  • Nice post, but I can't upvote it yet. A few small but important niggles. 1) The Object is usually the thing acted on by the verb. [But not in sentences like I have a brother, or He was punched] 2) The Subject in OP's sentence is My sister not sister. 3) Subject and Object are functions (grammatical jobs). But possessive pronouns, modal verbs and adverbs are types of word that do those jobs. That's why the beginning of your post is very good. But your last paragraph spoils it a bit because you mix up jobs and types of word ... (continued) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 2 '15 at 10:06
  • Lastly, today is still a noun in the last sentence. The type of word doesn't change, it's just that it is doing a different job. Instead of being a Subject or an Object, it is being an Adjunct. Nice post though. Especially the first para! :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 2 '15 at 10:17
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    @Araucaria thank you. My goal was to make this as approachable as possible and not introduce other things that would confuse but try to help in a general sense. Today may be an adjunct but it's doing the job of an adverb talking about drive...unless I'm totally wrong. I don't usually mix up jobs and types of words. Perhaps I am missing something obvious in my answer. – michael_timofeev Oct 2 '15 at 10:26
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    @Araucaria I understand. I just wanted to keep it straightforward. If I say "today is word that can function as either an adverb or a noun but here it is functioning as an adverb" I feel that the op might not understand...they are asking what the subject is and "that other thing". My answer has some sloppy usage but my hope is the op will have a better understanding...if they can't identify a subject it is likely they don't know what a free adjunct is or predicate or constituent. Thank you for helping me to give better answers. – michael_timofeev Oct 2 '15 at 14:19
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    @Mari-LouA Thanks...I'm getting better at "knowing stuff." Still have a ways to go before I am satisfied with my "knowing stuff." – michael_timofeev Oct 4 '15 at 7:10
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"My sister" is Subject, "the car" is Direct Object.

  • Hmm, not incredibly helpful (a bit underdeveloped perhaps), but at least it's accurate! So therefore +1 – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 2 '15 at 12:48
  • Agreed. It solved the question, but I didn't quite understand how to know that next time. Thanks so much! – Jason T Featheringham Oct 2 '15 at 20:46

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