Every sentence must have a subject and a verb to be complete. But what happens if your sentence has two subjects performing the same action — or a subject performing two different actions? Compound subjects and compound predicates can add variety and depth to your writing. Learn more about these parts of a sentence before diving into specific examples using compound subjects and verbs.
When a sentence has two or more subjects, that’s called a compound subject. These subjects perform the same action and are equally important in the sentence. But how does it work with the subject-verb agreement? Are compound subjects considered to be plural or singular?
Compound subjects are considered plural when joined by a coordinating conjunction, such as "and." For example:
- Joanie and Chachi love each other.
- Mr. Madison and the students are leaving soon.
- The cat, the dog and the rabbit stay indoors.
- The fork and spoons need to be washed.
Use a plural verb when joining two subjects in this way. When using a correlative conjunction ("either/or" or "neither/nor"), the verb agrees with the subject that is closest to the verb. For example:
- The piano or the bookcase has to go. ("bookcase" is singular; so is "has")
- The piano or the tables have to go. ("tables" is plural; so is "have")
- Neither the pillows nor the curtains match the couch. ("curtains" is plural; so is "match")
- Neither the pillows nor the blanket matches the couch. ("blanket is singular; so is "matches")
Notice that in all of these sentences, both subjects are performing the action. Compound subjects are a good way to show that more than one noun is important in the sentence.
Take a look at the following sentences with compound subjects. Can you spot the action both subjects are performing?
- Potato chips and cupcakes are bad for you.
- Either you or your brother is going to be punished.
- Uncle Jim, Aunt Sue and my cousin Jake went to Jamaica on vacation.
- Everything on the bed and everything in the closet was organized in under an hour.
- Neither the matches nor the candles caused the fire.
- Beth and Kendra love to read.
- All the children and all the adults agreed to order pizza.
- The boots by the door and the flip-flops in the living room need to be put away.
- The romance and the comedy are good choices to watch.
- Neither the rugs nor the carpet has been vacuumed.
- Anyone on the soccer team and anyone on the basketball team is eligible for the scholarship.
- The third-grade class and their parents are attending the school play.
- Either the chicken or the beef in the freezer needs to be thawed for dinner tonight.
- My brother and my sister are mad at me.
- Nobody in the bank and nobody in the store saw the accident.
A compound predicate occurs when a subject performs two or more actions in a sentence. When the actions are simple verbs, compound predicates are sometimes known as compound verbs. However, compound predicates can also be two complete verb phrases performed by the same subject.
The individual verbs can be joined by a coordinating conjunction. For example (verbs are bolded):
- Jamie ran, swam, and rode all across the county.
- My sister fixed the car and drove it home.
- We played poker and watched movies until midnight.
A compound predicate gives the reader more information about the action taken than a singular verb that only shows one action. Writing with compound predicates helps to keep sentences concise.
Compound predicates are easy to spot in a sentence. Once you find the subject in each of these examples, see if you can tell which actions it is performing.
- Her car skidded and halted to a stop.
- I will walk to the store tomorrow and buy some eggs.
- His sad story made me tear up and cry.
- They skipped and jogged all the way down the lane.
- The tightly woven fabric was easy to waterproof and clean.
- I'll take away the car and sell it for parts.
- Joey earned his degree and started work as a paralegal.
- Will the new balance carry over and apply to the next bill?
- The new employee parked in the wrong lot and sat in the wrong office.
- The little boy told me all about the play and acted it out.
- He decided to reorganize and neaten the room.
- My uncle traveled all night and slept all day.
- Have you asked for an exchange or demanded a refund?
- I took the money and thanked my dad.
- The suspect was six feet tall and had several tattoos.
There are times when a sentence has two subjects and two predicates, but they're not compound subjects or compound predicates. These sentences are called compound sentences. They are formed when a coordinating conjunction or semicolon joins two independent clauses to create a longer sentence.
- I'd love to visit Scotland, but my brother wants to go to Brazil.
- The dog growled so the child backed away.
- These cookies look delicious; I'm so glad you brought them!
It may seem like these sentences have compound subjects and compound predicates. However, each clause only has one subject and one predicate. For example, in "I'd love to visit Scotland, but my brother wants to go to Brazil," I and my brother are the subjects, and they each perform one action (love and wants).
English speakers and writers do everything they can to shorten and tighten what they have to say. By using compound subjects and compound predicates, they can do just that. For more ways to fit additional information into a sentence, learn more about using coordinate adjectives in your writing.