What Is a Compound Subject? | Examples & Definition

Sentence and word structure updated on  March 18, 2024 6 min read

A compound subject is more than one noun or pronoun joined by a conjunction that functions as the subject of a sentence or clause (e.g., “my sister and I”).

Like all subjects, a compound subject performs the action described by the verb in the predicate (e.g., “Sarah and Alana walk”) or is described by the predicate (e.g., “Trevor and Cara are tall”).

The nouns or pronouns in a compound subject are joined using the coordinating conjunctions “and,” “or,” or “nor.”

Compound subject examples
Parker and I are going to the store.
The irises, pansies, and violets are all in bloom.
Pizza or pasta sounds good for dinner.
Neither Caden nor his brother is coming.

What is a compound subject?

In English, all sentences and clauses have two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is the noun or pronoun that controls the verb, which is expressed in the predicate. The subject typically either performs the action of the verb (e.g., “Poppy sings”) or is described by the predicate (e.g., “Henry is sad”).

The examples just shown are simple subjects. When two or more simple subjects are combined with the conjunctions “and,” “or,” or “nor,” a compound subject is formed (e.g., “Poppy and Nora sing”).

Simple subject examples

Compound subject examples

Finn wants ice cream.

Finn and Liam want ice cream.

I will attend the meeting.

My boss or I will attend the meeting.

She doesn’t want to go.

Neither she nor her mom wants to go.

Using compound subjects in sentences

Compound subjects can be used in any type of sentence in English (i.e., simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex), as shown in the table below.

Sentence type

Compound subject example

Simple

Arlene and Ryan are going to the store.

Compound

Arlene and Ryan are going to the store, but Jacob and I are staying home.

Complex

I’m going to study while Arlene and Ryan go to the store.

Compound-complex

While Arlene and Ryan go to the store, I’m going to study, and Jacob is going to take a nap.

Compound subjects also can be used with either simple predicates or compound predicates.

Compound subject with compound predicate example
Sylvie and Rania like to walk and bike.

Compound subjects with more than two items

While compound subjects often consist of two nouns or pronouns, they can have more than two. In that case, commas are used to separate the items, and the conjunction is placed before the final list item.

A comma before the conjunction (sometimes referred to as an Oxford comma or serial comma) is preferred in some styles and not in others. Just make sure you are consistent about whether you use an Oxford comma.

Compound subjects with more than two items
My mom, my brother, and I have blue eyes. [Oxford comma]
My mom, my brother and I have blue eyes. [no Oxford comma]

The teacher, the principal, or the counselor will meet with you. [Oxford comma]
The teacher, the principal or the counselor will meet with you. [no Oxford comma]

Note
Sources give different advice about whether “either” and “neither” can be used with more than two items. In general, especially in academic writing, it is better to use these terms with only two items, even though you may hear them used differently in everyday speech.

When used to connect a compound subject, “nor” is almost always accompanied by “neither.” So, “nor” is typically not used in compound subjects with more than two nouns.

Compound subjects with pronouns

Subject pronouns (e.g., “I,” “she,” “he,” “they”) should always be used in compound subjects. People sometimes struggle with this and substitute object pronouns (e.g., “me,” “her,” “him,” “them”), especially when the pronoun comes after the conjunction.

When the pronoun “I” is used in a compound subject, it should come last.

Compound subjects with pronouns examples
He and I want to go to the concert.
Him and I want to go to the concert.
I and he want to go to the concert.
Me and him want to go to the concert.

Marley and they are having a disagreement.
They and Marley are having a disagreement.
Marley and them are having a disagreement.
Them and Marley are having a disagreement.

Subject-verb agreement for compound subjects

The rules of subject-verb agreement for compound subjects often cause problems, but there are a few general rules that can help.

Compound subjects with “and”

Compound subjects formed with the conjunction “and” should almost always be treated as plural. This makes sense when you consider replacing the compound subject with a pronoun (e.g., “Sofia and Tristan” becomes “they”). So, a verb in the plural form is used.

Subject-verb agreement with “and” examples
Carter and Elizabeth have a dog.
The children and I are traveling to California.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. First, if the compound subject is made up of two items that are viewed as a single entity, the verb is singular (e.g., “A burger and fries is my favorite lunch.”) This is relatively rare in formal writing.

The second exception is if the subject is introduced with the word “each” or “every.” In this case, a singular verb is used.

Subject-verb agreement with “each” and “every” examples
Each sentence and paragraph has been checked for errors.
Every lunch and dinner is provided by the company.

Note
“As well as” is not synonymous with “and.” It should only be used when you want to de-emphasize what comes after it.

The phrase including “as well as” should be set off with commas from the rest of the sentence. The verb agrees with the first noun (not the one in the “as well as” phrase).

Milk and eggs are common allergens. [Emphasis is on milk and eggs equally]
Milk, as well as eggs, is a common allergen. [Emphasis is on milk]

Milk as well as eggs are common allergens.
Milk, as well as eggs, are common allergens.

Compound subjects with “or” and “nor”

When “or” or “nor” is used to connect a compound subject, the subject is not automatically treated as plural. Instead, the verb agrees with whichever noun is closest to it.

When both nouns are singular, the verb is always singular. When both nouns are plural, the verb is always plural. However, when one noun is singular and one is plural, remember to look at the noun closest to the verb.

Subject-verb agreement with “or” and “nor” examples
Either the neighbors or the landlord has the spare key.
Either the landlord or the neighbors have the spare key.
Neither my friends nor my sister wants my old couch.
Neither my sister nor my friends want my old couch.

Note
Some people find that it sounds strange to use a singular verb when one of the nouns is plural (e.g., “My co-workers or my boss brings donuts every Monday”). This sentence is correct as written, but to avoid awkwardness, it can easily be rewritten to place the plural noun second (e.g., “My boss or my co-workers bring donuts every Monday”). This sounds more natural to many people and is an easy change that does not affect the meaning of the sentence.

In short, put the plural noun last in compound subjects to make determining subject-verb agreement easier.

Recommended articles

Do you want to know more about reasoning, verbs, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Reasoning

Verbs

Parts of speech

Cherry picking fallacy

Indicative mood

Predicate adjective

Naturalistic fallacy

Past tense

Compound adjective

Appeal to nature fallacy

Conditional sentences

Demonstrative pronouns

Appeal to tradition fallacy

Imperative mood

Conjunctive adverb

Genetic fallacy

Modal verbs

Adverb


Frequently asked questions about compound subjects

Can a compound subject be used in a simple sentence?

Yes, a compound subject can be used in a simple sentence—a sentence that has only one subject-verb pair (e.g., “Terrence and I like to hike).

Compound subjects can be used in all sentence types (i.e., simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex).

How does subject-verb agreement work with a compound subject?

Subject-verb agreement for compound subjects can seem complex, but there are two basic rules to keep in mind.

For compound subjects connected with “and,” a plural verb is almost always used (e.g., “Carlos and Elise go to the same school”).

For compound subjects connected with “or” or “nor,” the verb agrees with whichever noun is closest to it (e.g., “Either my parents or my sister picks me up from school” or “Either my sister or my parents pick me up from school”).

What is the difference between a compound subject and a compound predicate?

A compound subject refers to the group of nouns or pronouns that perform the action of the verb or are described by the verb (e.g., “Elle and Miriam are going to the store,” “She and Miriam are tall”).

A compound predicate occurs when two or more verbs share the same subject (e.g., “Beck walks and runs daily”).

Compound subjects and compound predicates can be used together (e.g., “The fans and the team cheered and shouted to celebrate the win”), or a compound subject can be used with a simple predicate and vice versa.

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Kayla Anderson Hewitt

Kayla has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. She has taught university-level ESL and first-year composition courses. She also has 15 years of experience as an editor.

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