Noun Complements

Discover the secret to making your nouns come to life through the magic of noun complements. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

What Is a Noun Complement?

A noun complement is a grammatical element that provides specific content about the noun it complements or provides the purpose or intention of the noun. Essentially, a noun complement helps to specify or elaborate on the content or characteristics of the noun it is associated with.

Noun complements can take three possible forms:

Prepositional Phrase as a Noun Complement

a prepositional phrase, usually headed by of, can serve as a noun complement when it comes after the words of quantity. These types of complements are totally necessary for quantity nouns. Almost all the meaning in the noun phrase comes from the complement, not the main word. We can classify these quantity words into two distinct types:

  • Quantity nouns that can not stand alone: They are usually extreme quantity nouns (large quantities or groups of items) that always require a complement such as a passel, surfeit, bunch, plethora, bushel, flock, etc. Here are some examples:

There was a passel of books on the shelf.

As you can see, "of books" complements the noun "passel".

The picnic had a plethora of delicious foods to enjoy.

He had a surfeit of food and couldn't eat another bite.

The florist arranged a beautiful bunch of roses for the wedding

She picked a bushel of apples from the orchard.

There was a flock of birds in the sky.

  • Quantity nouns that can stand alone: On the other hand, there are some quantity nouns that can stand alone, but they always suggest a specific material or substance such as gram, piece, quart, ton, bottle, etc. For example:

The truck carried a ton of bricks.

He bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion.

A gram of sugar sweetens the coffee perfectly.

That-clause as a Noun Complement

A that-clause can complete the meaning of a noun, usually positioned immediately after the noun it complements. In most cases, that-clauses serving as noun complements are classified as content clauses, which are clauses that give you detailed information about the noun's content. A that-clause usually appears after certain nouns which are classified into two types:

  • Utterance or cognition nouns: These are nouns that are used to represent acts of thinking and communication. They are used to describe the action or process of expressing thoughts, ideas, or information such as news, hint, story, thought, idea, belief, fact, reason, truth, etc. For example:

His thought that we should take a break was a welcome suggestion.

The news that the company was expanding brought excitement to the employees.

That fact that you need me is not a good reason to use me.

His hint that he knew the answer spoiled the quiz for everyone.

  • Reporting nouns: These nouns are commonly used to report or relay information about what someone has said or claimed such as comment, statement, agreement, claim, remark, etc. For example:

The statement that the meeting was postponed caused confusion among the attendees.

His comment that the concert was outstanding left a lasting impression on the audience.

Her remark that the artwork was breathtaking received widespread acclaim from the critics.

Warning

Remember when a that-clause is serving as a noun complement, you cannot omit "that". For example:

The claim that the session was useful surprised me. Not the claim the session was useful….

To-infinitive Clause as a Noun Complement

When we wish to discuss the aim or intention behind a noun, we can employ a to-infinitive clause to complete its meaning. There are some particular nouns that may necessitate the use of a to-infinitive clause to indicate a specific purpose. Take a look at the classification of these nouns:

  • Desire or intention: These nouns often indicate what someone wants or plans to do such as decision, intention, desire, choice, and plan. For example:

Her decision to pursue a career in medicine was admirable.

My intention to travel the world after retirement keeps me motivated.

  • Agreement or disagreement: Nouns that talk about agreeing or disagreeing include words like agreement, refusal, objection, permission and etc. For example:

The team's refusal to accept the proposal caused some tension.

The permission to use the company's facilities for the event was granted.

  • Chance or opportunity: These nouns often represent opportunities or possibilities such as chance, opportunity, occasion, possibility and etc. For example:

The opportunity to travel abroad excited her immensely.

The chance to meet her favorite author brought tears to her eyes.

The occasion to celebrate their anniversary at the beach was a dream come true.

Noun Complement Vs. Post-nominal Modifier

Noun complements and post-nominal modifiers are both grammatical elements that provide additional information and they consistently appear following the noun. A noun complement is essential to the sentence's structure and directly impacts the noun's core meaning, while a modifier provides additional, non-essential information about the noun, enhancing but not fundamentally altering the sentence's message. Here are some examples:

"He owns a car that runs on electricity." Vs. "The fact that he is a talented musician amazes me."

Here, "That runs on electricity" is a relative clause functioning as a post-nominal modifier for "car" while "that he is a talented musician" is a that-clause (content clause) that provides a specific content about "fact".

Noun Complements Vs. Appositives

Noun complements complete the meaning of a noun and are typically clauses or phrases. Appositives, on the other hand, provide supplementary information about nouns by renaming or clarifying them, often set off by commas. Noun complements are essential, while appositives offer additional details without changing the core message of the sentence. Here are some examples:

My sister's choice to study abroad was life-changing.

Here, the to-infinitive clause "to study abroad" is a noun complement, essential for understanding "choice."

My friend John is coming over.

Here, "John" is an appositive that provides additional information about "friend" by renaming or specifying which friend is coming over.

My cousin, an accomplished pianist, will perform tonight.

As you can see, the appositive "an accomplished pianist" provides supplementary information about "cousin" without altering the sentence's core message.

Review

Noun complements, including prepositional phrases, that-clauses, and to-infinitive clauses, help specify the noun's content, characteristics, or purpose, enhancing the overall meaning and clarity of the sentence.

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