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I Love You: A Subject-Object Valentine

Why “I love you” is the easiest way ever to remember the difference between subject and object.

By
Mignon Fogarty
Episode #355

valentine subject objectValentine’s Day is coming up, so I thought it would be a good time to say, “I love you.” Not only because I love you, but also because “I love you” is a handy little sentence for remembering the difference between a subject and an object.

Why Do You Need to Know the Difference Between a Subject and an Object?

The first question you should be asking is why you should care about the difference between a subject and an object. Those seems like pretty dry, boring grammar terms.

The reason they matter is that you often have to know whether you’re dealing with a subject or an object to be able to choose the right word. The difference between “who” and “whom,” “lay” and “lie,” and “sit” and “set” all come down to answering the question “Subject or object?” And all the complaints I get about people using “I” when they should use “me” and vice versa also come down to knowing a subject from an object.

Subjects Are Often at the Beginning of a Sentence

Typical English sentence order is subject-verb-object, or as the experts like to call it S-V-O. That means you often find the subject at the beginning of a sentence and the object at the end (or at least after the verb), and this is true of our little sentence “I love you.” “I love you” is a subject-verb-object sentence.

What Is a Subject?

Subjects do something or are something. In this case, the subject is “I” and is doing some loving.

What Is an Object?

Objects receive the action or have something done to them. In our sentence, “you” is being loved. It’s the target of the love.

If I love you, you are the object of my affection, and the word “you” is the object in my sentence.

Next: Examples of Subjects and Objects in Sentences

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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