What is a Predicate?

The English language can be very confusing sometimes, and predicates are no exception. In fact, many native English speakers...

Victoria Mac Callum Written by Victoria Mac Callum · 4 min read >

The English language can be very confusing sometimes, and predicates are no exception. In fact, many native English speakers would find it difficult to define predicate.  Examples of predicates appear in every English sentence. Once you know more about predicates, they won’t be confusing anymore. This easy guide to predicates will help you better understand how to correctly identify and use different types of predicates.

What is a simple predicate definition?

Put simply, a predicate modifies, or changes the subject of a sentence in some way. A complete sentence in the English language has at least one subject, one verb, and expresses a complete thought. For example:

She is a tennis player.

  • The word She is the subject
  • Is is the one verb
  • A tennis player is the  predicate

He is a good dog.

  • The word He is the subject
  • Is is the one verb
  • A good dog is the predicate

We are moving next year.

  • The word We is the subject
  • Are is the verb
  • Moving next year is the predicate

You’ll notice that the verb (is) is included in the predicate phrase. In traditional English grammar, anything in a sentence that isn’t a subject is considered a predicate. 

What are the types of predicates?

  • Simple Predicate
  • Compound Predicate
  • Complete Predicate
  • Predicate Noun
  • Predicate Adjective

What is a simple predicate?

To understand a simple predicate, it’s important to understand verbs. A verb or verb phrase make up the part of a sentence that tells the action the subject is doing or the action that is being done to the subject. In a sentence, the verb phrase is the part of the sentence that has a verb and a direct or indirect object, but does not include the subject. Additionally, a verb phrase can join with a noun or noun phrase to make a simple sentence. In this case, the noun or noun phrase acts as the subject of the sentence.

So, the simple predicate is the part of the sentence that contains the verb or verb phrase and typically follows a subject, verb, predicate formula.

Jane was running quickly to her mother.

  • Jane is the subject of the sentence
  • Was running is the simple predicate

My football team is taking a bus to the game.

  • My football team is the subject
  • Is taking is the simple predicate

A simple predicate could be as short as one word. The imperative verb command Go! is an example of verb that is a one word simple predicate. Here are a few more examples of simple predicates with the predicate underlined.

  • The kids left the movie early.
  • The delivery person drove to the wrong address.
  • Our flight will leave on time.
  • The elephant ate all of the food.
  • Four children are playing in the park.
  • The tiny snake slithered through the grass.

What is a compound predicate?

Once you understand simple predicates, understanding compound predicates is easy. Basically, a compound predicate is when two or more verbs or verb phrases are connected with a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) and have the same subject. For example, this sentence contains two predicates:

Samantha rode her bike and then met her friend.

  • Samantha is the subject
  • Rode her bike is predicate one in the sentence
  • And is the conjunction (Note: Any conjunction that is used to join the verb or verb phrases of a compound predicate is not included in the compound predicate.)
  • Then met her friend is predicate two in the sentence

We will eat one pizza at home or go out to a restaurant.

  • We is the subject
  • Will eat pizza is predicate one in the sentence
  • Or is the conjunction
  • Go out to a restaurant is predicate two in the sentence

When one predicate is combined with another predicate in the same sentence and joined by a conjunction, we get a compound predicate. Here are a few more examples of compound predicates with the predicates underlined.

  • I will go to college first and then find a job.
  • She usually goes to the library in the morning, but today she went in the evening.
  • My favorite noodle shop was closed, so I went to the school cafeteria.
  • Sam and Jane went shopping all afternoon and then they went to see a movie in the evening.
  • Sharks are interesting animals, but I think whales are more interesting.
  • I wanted a blue car, but my wife wanted a red car.

What is a complete predicate?

Many people consider the terms predicate and complete predicate to be interchangeable. A complete predicate includes all the other parts of the sentence that are not the subject. For instance:

Jennie found a stray cat.

  • Jennie is the subject
  • Found a stray cat is a complete predicate

Sasha was late for school.

  • Sasha is the subject
  • Late for school is the complete predicate

Remember that the verb is included in the predicate phrase. Here are a few more examples of complete predicates with the predicate underlined.

  • The cat ran quickly around the house.
  • Our school is going on a field trip next week.
  • My sister will visit me in Beijing next week.
  • We are going on a long hike during our camping trip.
  • The tall building is scheduled to be demolished next month.

What is a predicate noun?

A predicate noun renames the subject and is a noun or pronoun.

That horse is the fastest one.

  • That horse is the subject
  • Fastest runner is the predicate nominative

Fastest runner renames the subject (horse). Here are a few more examples with the predicate underlined.

  • Mary is the best swimmer on the team.
  • My cat is the cutest cat in the neighborhood.
  • Main street is my favorite street.
  • Jenna, who is the best student at school, will study in Europe next year.
  • My neighbor, a very friendly guy, offered to mow my lawn when I am out of town.
  • I haven’t seen Dan, my best friend, in almost five years.

What is a predicate adjective?

Yet another type of predicate is a predicate adjective. This type of predicate is an adjective that modifies the verb. Adjectives are used to describe a person, place, or thing.

My son is getting taller every day.

  • Taller is the predicate adjective

All but one child is asleep.

  • Asleep is the predicate adjective

Here are a few more examples of predicate adjectives with the predicate adjective underlined.

  • That tree is shorter than I remember.
  • The green, shiny boat moved slowly down the river.
  • The outside of my school was painted red and yellow.

What is a predicate? The short version

Remember, examples of predicates include simple predicates, compound predicates, predicate nouns and complete predicates. A noun and a verb can be within a predicate in a sentence. No matter the subject or meaning, predicates are everywhere in the English language.

Here is a basic predicate definition: A predicate is any sentence or sentence clause that includes a verb that says something about the subject of that clause or sentence. The next time you’re asked, “What’s a predicate?”, the simple the answer is, everything but the subject.

Written by Victoria Mac Callum
Victoria honed up her English language skills in the Media Industry working at a campus radio station in 2014. Since then, she has upgraded to more demanding roles of English teacher on Preply and course creator. She's also a radio presenter, news anchor, voice-over artist, writer and editor. Profile