What are the subject and predicate of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence? I struggle already with these two but the first sentence is so long and drawn out that I honestly have...

What are the subject and predicate of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence? I struggle already with these two but the first sentence is so long and drawn out that I honestly have no idea. The passage is as follows:

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bans which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In this first sentence of The Declaration of Independence, the subject is "respect," and the predicate is "requires." The main clause appears in the two lines above the very last line.

This sentence is a long complex sentence; that is, it has one main clause and five dependent clauses, one of which is an adverbial clause that modifies the verb, and the others are adjective clauses, modifying various nouns:

  • Main clause

 ...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires... 

  • Adverbial clause (compound):

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bans, .... and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station....

  • Adjective clauses (4)

which have connected them with another

[to] which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them

...that they should declare the causes

...which impel them to the separation

Sources:
durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

hen discussing the subject of a sentence, it makes sense to ask the question, "What is the sentence about?" In a simple sentence, such as, for example,

"The Declaration of Independence is interesting,"

the sentence is clearly about The Declaration of Independence and therefore, this is the subject (that is, all four words which constitute a noun phrase). In terms of parts of speech, the subject of a sentence can be a noun, a pronoun, an assumed subject, a compound noun or a noun and the words describing it; in other words, a phrase. 

There are two thoughts regarding predicate which is essentially the verb part of the sentence. One thought excludes the descriptive element of the verb, in which case, the predicate in the above sentence would be "is" only. The other thought would include the descriptive words -in the above case, "interesting" which is the predicative adjective - and together they produce a verb clause (is interesting). In the second case, then, the predicate would be "is interesting." The predicate completes the ideas expressed by the subject.

In regard to the actual first sentence of The Declaration, there is a main clause and several subordinate clauses, each of which can have their own subject and predicate. However, in terms of the main clause:

"a decent respect to the opinions of mankind"

is what the sentence is about; This constitutes a noun phrase and clearly reveals that the sentence is about respect. Having established the subject of the sentence ("a decent respect to the opinions of mankind") makes it a little easier to find the predicate which expresses the idea of respect, such that, it,  

"requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Depending on the applicable application of the predicate, the predicate is either "requires" by itself or, "requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Regarding the remaining subordinate clauses, discounting the "when" which commences the sentence; "it becomes necessary," is the part of the sentence around which all these subordinate parts revolve.

Therefore, to make it easier to understand, the sentence parts can be split and, "It becomes necessary..."

for one people to dissolve the political bans which have connected them with another

and "It becomes necessary..."

to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them.

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