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I'm trying to explain subjects and objects.

It's not simple!

How do we recognize the subject?

A subject of a clause is a noun phrase, nominal clause, non-finite verb phrase, or a subject pronoun that is found in the clause before the finite verb phrase in declarative sentences.

Jack had won his ticket in a lucky gambling streak.

In interrogative sentences, the subject directly follows the auxiliary verb, sometimes called the operator.  

 Did Rose want to marry her fiancÚ?  

A subject can be identified by adding a tag question

Rose was engaged to marry another man, wasn't she?

The subject of every transitive sentence is known as the actor. It is the person, place, or thing that "performs" the verb.

Rose fell in love with Jack, and Jack loved Rose passionately.

The White Star Company placed the less wealthy passengers on the lower decks.   

In passive voice, the noun that is no longer the subject is still known as the actor because of its function in the clause. The actor still performs the action!

The less wealthy passengers were given rooms on the lower decks by the White Star Company.   

How do we recognize the object?  

Objects are noun phrases, nominal clauses, non-finite verb phrases, or object pronouns that are the recipient of a verb phrase. The verb phrase can be a finite verb phrase or a non-finite verb phrase.  

Jack drew portraits.   

 Rose liked to eat caviar and drink champagne. (The finite verb phrase, liked, has non-finite verb phrases, to eat and to drink, as its objects. The non-finite verb phrases have caviar and champagne as their objects.)     

Objects may also be noun phrases or pronouns that serve as the second component of a prepositional phrase.

Rose received a diamond necklace from her fiancÚ

She was not in love with him but was engaged to be married to him because he was wealthy.

Direct objects, or objects of verb phrases, are the nouns acted upon. .

He presented the necklace to her one April evening. (to her is an indirect object.)

Jack, who was poor, wanted to protect Rose from the doomed marriage that had been planned for her.

Some clauses are ditransitive. That means that their finite verb phrases has both a direct and an indirect object.  Indirect objects are the recipient or beneficiary of the finite verb.

When Cal gave Rose the necklace, she disliked it.

Indirect objects may form a prepositional phrase. When a prepositional phrase is not used, the indirect object immediately follows the verb. When the indirect object is a prepositional phrase, it immediately follows the direct object.   

When Cal gave Rose the necklace, she disliked it.

When Cal gave the necklace to Rose, she disliked it.



The problem of partitives

Partitives can be described as a noun phrase followed by a prepositional phrase. Students often are puzzled by the function of each noun phrase in a partitive. The function of subject or object is served by the first noun phrase, and not the noun phrase that serves as the object of the prepositional phrase.  

The wreck of the Titanic was photographed for the movie. 

Rose was saved by a piece of furniture Jack had found floating in the water.