What is a Subject Complement

Before looking at subject complement, it’s important to understand what a linking verb is. A linking verb is a verb denotes a state. Some examples of linking verbs include to be, to become, to seem, to appear, to smell, etc. These verbs do not denote an action.

What is a Subject Complement

A subject complement is a word or phrase that follows a linking verb. This word or phrase can be a noun, pronoun or an adjective. The main function of a subject complement is describing or renaming the subject. Based on these functions, subject complement can be categorized into two types: predicative nominative and predicative adjective.

Predicative Nominative

When the linking verb of a sentence is followed by a noun or a noun phrase, it is known as a predicative nominative. Predicative nominative defines, identifies and renames the subject.

Dinner is my favourite meal of the day.

(Subject = dinner, Linking Verb = is, Predicative Nominative = my favourite meal of the day.)

You are a cheater.

(Subject=you, Linking Verb = are, Predicative Nominative= cheater)

What is a Subject Complement - 2

He is a dentist.

Predicative Adjective

When the linking verb of a sentence is followed by an adjective or an adjective phrase, it is known as a predicative adjective. A predicative adjective describes the subject.

She looks great.

(Subject=she, Linking Verb=looks, Predicative Adjective=great)

The biscuits taste salty.      

(Subject=biscuits,  Linking Verb=taste, Predicative Adjective=salty)

Only linking verbs can have subject complements. If the verb denotes an action, it can possess a subject complement. The nouns or phrases that occur after an action verb usually belong to the direct or indirect object.

What is a Subject Complement

The sky is pink.

Examples of Subject Complement

Predicative Nominative:

This is the worst meal I’ve ever had.

Ice cream is her favourite dessert.

He is a pirate.

Julie Adams is the main actress in the film.

Mrs. Milan is the best teacher I’ve ever met.

Predicative Adjective:

You look tired.

These cupcakes smell delicious.

He has grown tall.

I was sad to see them go.

This pink dress looks lovely on you.

Subject Complement – Summary

  • A subject complement is a word or phrase that follows a linking verb.
  • It can be either a noun or an adjective.
  • A noun that follows a linking verb and renames the subject is known as a predicative nominative.
  • An adjective that follows a linking verb and describes the subject is known as a predicative adjective.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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