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General Writing and Grammar Help/Identifying Subjects in a Sentence



Thank you for the kind service you are providing; it's appreciated.  I'm having trouble figuring out the following.  In the sentence:

John thinks that Mary is pretty.

Which is the subject, John, Mary, or both?  And if one of them isn't a subject, then what is it?

Also in the sentence:

John told Mary to go.

Is it John, Mary, or both? And again, if one of them isn't a subject, then what part of speech is it?

Thank you so much for your help!

1. John thinks that Mary is pretty.

John is the subject of the sentence. The clause that Mary is pretty is the object of the verb thinks. Mary is the subject of that clause.

2. John told Mary to go. The subject of the sentence is John. Mary and to go are both objects of the verb told.

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Thanks, John, for your question. I hope you ask more. If any of the above is not entirely clear, please submit a follow-up question.

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Richard Johnson


I specialize in grammar. I can however answer any question except homework questions--usually the same day--concerning English grammar, usage, or (non-fiction) writing style, on the basis of the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.


I'm a retired editor and a lifelong student of this subject. My library includes a great many works to which I've referred through the years. I currently rely largely on the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style supplemented, where appropriate, by Long, The New College Grammar.

For over 30 years I edited the newsletter of my own organization, which had different names but was last known as

BA, Brooklyn College. Advanced studies in economics and political science.

Awards and Honors
For many years a member of Mensa.

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