Write powerful sentences by starting with the subject

Eleanor Meecham | August 30, 2016

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing that the sentence is about. For example:

Jemima and Kahu like pancakes.
This cookbook has some great recipes.
Healthy families eat plenty of vegetables.

Putting your subject right at the beginning of a sentence helps you write clearly and simply.

Image, Pancakes.

Mmm. Who doesn’t like pancakes? Image by rob_rob2001 / CC BY-SA

Watch out for false subjects

False subjects are words like ‘it’ or ‘there’ at the beginning of a sentence.

There is almost a whole bowl of lollies.
It is possible to make yourself sick by eating too many.

Get rid of false subjects to make your sentences easier to understand and more concise. Start with the real subject instead.

The bowl is almost full of lollies.
You can make yourself sick by eating too many.

Image, Jelly beans in a bowl.

Tempting but dangerous. Image by Judit Klein / CC BY-ND

Compare the following examples

The examples below show how deleting false subjects and moving your subject to the beginning makes your sentences shorter and less cluttered.

There was an afternoon tea served in the garden.
Afternoon tea was served in the garden.

It was extraordinary how warm the weather was.
The weather was extraordinarily warm.

There were many delicious fillings in the club sandwiches.
The club sandwiches had many delicious fillings.

It was impressive how well the cupcakes were decorated.
The cupcakes were impressively decorated.

There was only one Danish pastry left when everyone had gone.
Only one Danish pastry was left when everyone had gone.

It is difficult to remember when I last had such a lovely afternoon.
I can’t remember when I last had such a lovely afternoon.

Image, Teapot, tea cup, and Victoria sponge cake.

The Victoria sponge was pretty fantastic too. Image by Carwyn Lloyd Jones / CC BY

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