The difference between a predicate and a verb is subtle, with a predicate relying on the use of a verb. In some sentences, a predicate and a verb can be the same word or, in the case of more complex sentences, you may use an additional verb to help describe a predicate. Knowing the difference between a predicate and a verb will help you formulate more complex sentences and identify common grammatical mistakes in your writing.

Predicate Requires a Verb

A predicate requires a verb to serve as the focus of the clause, with the predicate describing a quality of the subject's action. For instance, in the sentence "Amy drives her car to school," the predicate is "drives her car to school." This predicate describes Amy's actions, telling the reader where Amy drives her car. Complete sentences require a predicate and a subject. Additionally, a single verb in a sentence is also a predicate, such as in the sentence "Amy drives." In this case, the predicate and the verb are the same word, "drives."

Verb Does Not Require Predicate

In a sentence with more than one verb, only one can be the predicate of a sentence. For example, the sentence "Amy wants to drive herself to school" uses two verbs, "wants" and "to drive." The full predicate is "wants to drive herself to school." Therefore, in cases where more than one verb is used, you identify the predicate by the entire clause that identifies the actions or clarifies the state of being of the subject. Additional verbs can exist, but they can function as a noun. Here, the action, "to drive," describes something that Amy wants, using a verb to represent a thing.

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Predicate Clause

Predicates do not require the use of a clause; however, when they are in the form of a clause, the entire clause becomes the predicate while only the verb is identified as the verb. As a result, the verb in a sentence describes the action, while the predicate describes the action and how it relates to the subject of the sentence.

-ing Rule

A word ending in "-ing" must have a helper verb in order to be a predicate in a sentence. For example, the sentence "Amy is driving to school" uses the verb "is" as a helper verb to "driving." This rule allows you to use a verb to describe things such as time to your reader. In this sentence, the word "is" refers to a current state, as in Amy is currently, at this moment, driving to school. Alternatively, if you rewrote the sentence to read "Amy was driving to school," you would be describing a past action by using the verb "was."

About the Author

Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.