Subject Complement

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  • Article graphics | A subject complement usually occurs after a linking verb and completes the subject

What is a Subject Complement?

A subject complement is the grammatical element which follows a linking verb (copular verb)Opens in new window and complements the subject of the sentenceOpens in new window either by specifying an attribute of the subjectOpens in new window or its identity.

A subject complement can be either a nounOpens in new window or pronounOpens in new window, or an adjectiveOpens in new window.

Examples include:
    • It was he who caught the audiences’ attention.
    • It = subject; was = linking verb; he = pronoun acting as subject complement.

    • The Egyptian suddenly becomes benevolent with his wealth.
    • The Egyptian = subject; becomes = linking verb; benevolent = adjective acting as subject complement.

An important point is that subject complements do occur in two forms, namely: predicate nominative and predicate adjective. The subject of the sentence which is renamed by a renaming noun phrase, which may be in form of a noun or a pronoun is known as a predicate nominativeOpens in new window. In the case where the subject is described by an adjective, it is known as the predicate adjectiveOpens in new window.

Observe the Practical Examples below:

In the following examples, the first underlined words are subjects of the sentence, the linking verb are in italics, and the words following the linking verbs (also underlined) are the subject complements.

  • Fatoki is a student (noun phrase)

    (a student, as noun phrase renaming the subject ‘Fatoki’)

  • Fatoki appears brilliant (predicative adjective)

    (brilliant, as predicative adjective describing the subject ‘Fatoki’)

  • The flower is a gift (noun phrase)

    (a gift, as noun phrase renaming the subject ‘the flower’)

  • The flower looks beautiful (predicative adjective)

    (beautiful, as predicative adjective describing the subject ‘the flower’)

A Brief Insight on Copular Verbs

What is a Copular Verb?

A Copular verb (also known as Linking verb) is a sort of verb which connects a subject and its complement.

The Linking verbs are often forms of the verb to be, but are sometimes verbsOpens in new window related to the five senses (look, sound, smell, feel, taste) and sometimes verbs that somehow reflect a state of being (appear, seem, become, grow, turn, prove, remain).

Examples:

What follows the linking verb will be either a noun complement or an adjective complement, as in the examples below:

  • The product appears genuine.
  • A victory would seem unlikely given the circumstances.
  • This room smells bad.
  • I feel energetic.

The Grammatical Forms that can Function as Subject Complement

In English, there are five grammatical forms that can act as the subject complement. These are briefly discussed below:

  1. Noun Phrase

    A Noun phraseOpens in new window can be formed by a noun or pronoun, and modifiers, complements, or determiners such as; adjectives, prepositional phrases, noun clauses, and verb phrases.

    An example of noun phrase which serve as Subject complement is underlined below:

    • I will become a football coach.

      (I = subject; become = linking verb; a football coach = noun phrase acting as subject complement.)

  1. Adjectival Phrase

    Adjective phrase (or adjectival phrase) is a group of words that describe a noun or pronoun in a sentence, they are usually placed before, or after the noun or pronoun in a sentence.

    An example of adjectival phrase which serve as Subject complement is underlined below:

    • Andy is a talented footballer.

      (Andy = subject; is = linking verb; talented footballer = adjective phrase acting as subject complement.)

  1. Prepositional Phrase

    A Prepositional phraseOpens in new window is a group of words containing a preposition, with a noun or pronoun as object of the preposition, and any modifiers of the object. A preposition is usually positioned before its object.

    An example of prepositional phrase which serve as Subject complement is underlined below:

    • The most cultural region is in the north.

      (Cultural region = subject; is = linking verb; in the north = prepositional phrase acting as subject complement)

  2. Verb Phrase

    A Verb phraseOpens in new window is a group of words containing an head verb plus complements and adjuncts as modification for the head verb.

    An example of verb phrase which serve as Subject complement is underlined below:

    • Her favorite hobby is seeing movies.

      (Her = subject; is = linking verb; seeing movies = verb phrase acting as subject complement)

  1. Noun Clause

    Noun clauses are dependent clause that acts as a noun. Noun clauses are used as the subject or subject complement, direct or indirect object, as well as object of a preposition.

    An example of noun clause which serve as Subject complement is underlined below:

    • The venue of the event would be wherever you want.

      (The venue = subject; would be = linking verb; wherever you want = noun clause acting as subject complement)

NounsOpens in new window and adjectivesOpens in new window most frequently function as subject complements. Grammarians (as mentioned in the beginning) specifically name nouns functioning as subject complements: predicate nominativesOpens in new window; and adjectives functioning as subject complements, they name predicate adjectivesOpens in new window. These two terms are quite important to familiarize in your repertoire of grammatical knowledge.

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