Which is the subject (and what's the other thing called)? is a crappy question.

In its entirety:

If I say:

My sister can drive the car today

Which is the subject: sister or car? Also, what is the other thing called?

This might be marginally interesting because of the can, but it shows absolutely no research. "The other thing?" There is more than one "other thing." That makes it unclear.

ELL is not a garbage can. There is a close reason on ELL that states:

This question should include more details than have been provided here. Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question, or provide more context. See: Details, Please.

Listed among the details are Explain why you are confused and Show your research.

The above question does neither. There have been other questions I've voted to close for the 'show your research' reason which I've seen others have voted to close in order to migrate to ELL.

Please treat ELL with the same respect that ELU should be accorded.

Granted I suffer from native English-speaker guilt, but every time I vote to migrate, I go over to ELL and answer a reasonable but unanswered question. That's how I deal with (my) karma. Maybe the people migrating crappy questions should think about doing the same; it might make them think twice.

Edited to add: I didn't know this question had such a nice, helpful answer, which is great when that happens. However, it is still a crappy question. What I have learned since then is that there has been some discussion on ELL about migrating crap, so maybe if the mods can let us know what they want (there is some disagreement), I can get down from this soap box. I'm old, and my balance isn't so good.

  • Oops. But actually, the upvoted answer is quite reasonable. (I think this probably would have merited a comment on the question rather than a Meta post, which I didn't come to till after migrating.)
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:15
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    @AndrewLeach - Sorry, I didn't know you migrated. There was no answer when I posted this, and I have seen some pretty awful questions voted-to-migrate. Hence the post. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 6:26
  • Without looking at this particular question, note that one is faced with deciding, for a "crap" question that is unsuited to EL&U, whether it's simply so incredibly poor that it should be deleted, or rather it is that poor because the author has a poor command of English and needs the sort of help the might get from ELL. It's a difficult decision, since with the first option you're basically telling the author "You're an idiot".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 23:52
  • @HotLicks - if you read my entire question, you have read the particular question. It's crap. As for whether one is telling someone they are idiots, maybe that's what it means for you, but I don't agree. I do think one can ask the OP what research they have done, which is very different. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 4:09
  • I'm sorry but I don't get it. Is this sort of a complaint that ELU has migrated a question to ELL, and ELL doesn't care for it either? If so, how is ELU supposed to know what is considered crap on ELL? You guys can put it on hold yourselves. We don't know what your standards are, otherwise we would have killed it ourselves.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 15:39
  • @Mitch - I'm not speaking for ELL. I'm speaking from the POV of a member of ELU. I did not think we should migrate this kind of question under the guidance of the "don't migrate crap" rule. J.R. has assured me that it's OK to migrate. That answers that for me. (Hmm, don't know why that didn't work. See the third comment under J.R.'s answer.) Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 16:33
  • I think the many upvotes are suggesting that there is more than one crappy question on EL&U... And, sadly, in the review queue I am seeing more requests for migration, for questions that 1) are unsuitable for ELL to begin with because if they lack research here, the same is true for our sister-site, 2) that are too abstract for ELL but are perhaps considered "trivial" or "boring", or I don't know what.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


There has been some discussion on ELL about migrating crap, so maybe if the mods can let us know what they want (there is some disagreement)...

Yup, there has been some disagreement. That makes sense to me.

One person sees this question and thinks, "This is just ‘crap’ with no research."

Another sees this question, and thinks, "Here is a person who is confused about subjects and objects," and proceeds to write a helpful answer.

A third person sees the question and thinks, "This looks more like a learner's question than a serious etymologist question," and makes a move to migrate.

A fourth person sees this question and its answers, and thinks, "This would be more helpful to future visitors if we added the object tag," and therefore makes an edit.

So, which person was right? I think all four have defensible points – although perhaps not all responses are equally constructive.

In the end, the Stack Exchange has in its “library of detailed answers” a pretty good summary about how to differentiate between subjects and objects. That answer is on the English Learner's Exchange, which is probably where it belongs.

Most of the karma I see here is on the positive side...

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    so, just to get this straight, that question (before the answer) should have been migrated? Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 21:03
  • 3
    @medica - It depends on who you ask. Some people would say yes, some people would say no, and some people would say it really doesn't matter all that much.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 21:33
  • Thanks. I will not try to waylay migrations then. Best of all, I can step down off of the soapbox. :) Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 22:57
  • @medica, I'd think what J.R. is trying to say is let ELL itself decide the definition of "crap". "crap" in one site doesn't mean "crap" in another site, for example all the posts here are regarded as "crap" but fit nicely on anime.SE. Another example is where software library requests are considered subjective "crap" in SO, but are the topic on apprequest.stackexchange.com.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 10:36
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    @Pace - That's part of what I'm saying, but not the whole of it. Sometimes questions look like crappy questions until someone looks at them from the right vantage point. (For a really good example, see tchrist's answer to this question, where he explains the epenthetic e.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 14:24
  • @J.R. I think that there's two points to bear in mind here: A) The speaker is a native speaker. Native speakers should be able to come here to get advice from experts about what a subject is (because there's going to be a lot of bad advice about that from people who only have an intuitive understanding. B) This isn't a simple question, at all! UL&U has got to be a place where ... Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 9:05
  • @J.R. people can talk about what a noun is, what a subject is and so on and so forth, because these are important points for any serious linguist of English. So great post (+1), right karma, right analysis - APART from, this is a question for EL&U too!! Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 9:05
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    @Araucaria In some cases, I would agree. “Is there the subject in existential constructions?”, for instance, would be a good question to ask, since it’s actually debated and not entirely clear. But ELU is not the place to go to learn what basic grammar is. “What is a verb?” is not a good generic question (although something like, “If modals do not inflect at all, are they still really verbs?” would be), and this question is basically asking about the very basics of grammar. Not even necessarily English grammar, just grammar. The place to learn that would be primary school, preferably. → Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 18:24
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    → Even so, if the question had actually included any kind of research or background information or any kind of additional information at all, it might have been considered at least a halfway decent question. But it doesn’t. It’s comparable to someone asking on Mathematics “What is 5 + 4?” with no context. Sure, you can get a lot of brilliant mathematicians arguing various finer, extreme points to give different quantum-mathematical answers; but the fact that, in normal parlance, 5 + 4 = 9 is such a basic operation means that it’s not an SE question, but a primary school question. Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 18:27
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Much as I do respect your very good answers and therefore also your opinion, my feeling is that you're wrong on this point. "What is a verb" - "What is a Subject" - "What is a phrase" are all superlatively important questions for a site that really is for serious linguists and enthusiasts of English. And what's worse is your answer, because there seems to be nothing worse than the grammar given to pupils by primary and secondary school teachers. Infinitely worse than any EFL teaching by far ... Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquet ... That's why this site is needed. And that's what this site should be here for. And its because of those teachers that this site is important! That question is not "What's 5 + 4" it's "What does 5 + 4 mean?" which is a hugely important question. Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:12
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    @Araucaria I agree with much of what you say, but the question here isn’t actually asking what a subject is (that’s not really a SE question either—it’s far too broad and entire books are written to try to answer that question), but which of two nouns in a very simple, straightforward, transitive sentence is the subject. Again, however, the most important thing is the complete lack of research. That makes even the most potentially interesting questions off-topic. Simply Googling “What is the subject of a sentence?” gives you tons of sites that can be used as a stepping stone to ask questions → Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:17
  • @JanusBahsJacquet and sorry to labour the point but "what is the subject in existential questions" is very obviously the question "what is a subject" for people who have never deeply investigated what a subject is! Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:17
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    → that will help you gain more insight; but the asker here had not even done that. That such a complete lack of research makes a question off-topic is one of the basic tenets of the entire SE system, not just ELU or ELL. Similarly, asking what 5 + 4 means is a very valid question (especially if you explain why you don’t understand it), but something any calculator can answer for you by you basically entering the question into it is not. That’s simply not what SE is meant for. Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:18
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    @JanusBahsJacquet ... I kind of agree - but I also emphatically don't. There's more crap out there grandstanding as grammar regarding this kind of topic than there is information. If the aims of this site are what they purport to be then we must address these very fundamental questions asked by native speakers, even if asked casually. If not, let's give up and go home or just turn this into a single-word-request site. Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:24

To me, this is not remotely ELL.SE. Note that ELL is for "speakers of other languages learning English"

Someone who is learning English as a second language will have some difficulties. But one thing they are almost guaranteed to know (and better than many native speakers) is the technical terms "subject" and "object" (or should I say, "other thing.")

This question has all the hallmarks of a native speaker who uses grammar intuitively but who has no idea of linguistics or formal understanding of how grammar works.

Let me click on the question.... Oh look, a 100% English sounding username, what a surprise!

Although the question is basic, The OP is NOT a speaker of another language, and the question is not one that would be asked by a speaker of another language. So this does NOT belong on ELL.

EDIT in response to Andrew Leach's comment:

Though I am clear that this does not belong on ELL, I take no position on whether it belongs here (most, but not all, think it is too basic and under-researched.) In that case, closing and deleting would have been more appropriate. I think there was some good intention in trying to find this question a "home" on ELL. But as I say, learners of English as a second language are actually even more likely to know the terms "subject" and "object" than native speakers.

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    +1 [It's also a bit shameful that this site is so old and does not have a decent answer to this fundamental question.] Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:09
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    @Araucaria, I really feel, after looking at the actual question, that you are grossly overstating the "fundamental", "deep", and "interesting" aspects of the question. The question is one my second-grader can answer reliably. (reminder: the question was, "in the sentence my sister can drive the car today, is 'sister' or 'car' the subject?")
    – Hellion
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 4:08
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    However, ELU is for "linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts," and a user who "uses grammar intuitively but who has no idea of linguistics or formal understanding of how grammar works" doesn't fit into that category.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 9:37
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    @AndrewLeach I don't disagree with your point. Maybe this question is so basic it doesn't belong on either site. As OP of this post says, "please don't migrate crap." I'm not at all clear it belongs on this site (Araucaria thinks it belongs, pretty much everyone else doesn't, as it shows no research.) My point is: It doesn't belong on ELL. So close, but don't migrate. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 10:40
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    @AndrewLeach so if this site is for linguists, etymologists, and serious enthusiasts, why are there so many questions of the"crossword puzzle" type here? You know, the ones asking for single word requests. What about the "In [fill in the language of your choice] we say X. What's the English equivalent?" That's translation stuff that ought to be on ELL. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 17:08

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