In grammar, complements are words, phrases, or clauses that are essential to complete the meaning of a given expression. Here, we will study them thoroughly!

"Complements" in the English Grammar

What Are Complements?

A complement is a word, phrase, or clause that completes the meaning of a clause or sentence. It provides additional information about another word in the sentence or is required to make the sentence grammatically complete.

Complement: Major Types

There are four major types of complements:

Exercise is good.

Here, 'exercise' is the subject and 'good' is the subject complement.

Exercise makes you healthy.

In this sentence, 'you' is the object and 'healthy' is the object complement.

Subject Complements

A subject complement is a word or group of words in a sentence that provides necessary information about the subject and often follows a linking verb (e.g. be, seem, become, etc.).

Rex is a dentist.

'Rex' is the subject, 'is' is the linking verb, and the noun 'a dentist' is the subject complement. It gives us information about the subject.

Mike was sad.

Mike is the subject, 'was' is the linking verb, and the adjective 'sad' is the subject complement.

A subject complement can come in different ways:

  • Nouns: Nouns normally rename, describe, or identify the subject and appear after a linking verb. If the noun is accompanied by any modifiers such as determiners or prepositional phrases, the entire noun phrase acts as a subject complement. Take a look at the examples:

Life is a blessing.

Pinocchio looked like a real boy.

  • Pronouns: When the identity of the subject is unknown or being explained, it is common to use a pronoun as the subject complement instead of a noun. This is particularly common in questions and responses. For example:

'Who is it?' 'It's me!'

  • Adjectives:These are adjectives that appear after a linking verb and provide information about the subject of a clause. For example:

You seem nice.

The book was useful.

  • Adverb phrases: Sometimes, we can use adverb phrases after certain verbs to describe the subject. But, if you can take the adverb out of the sentence, and it still makes sense, then it is not a subject complement. Here is an example:

The pen is in the backpack.

I am across the street.

The cat is under the table.

  • Noun clauses: Noun clauses can serve as subject complements, which follow linking verbs. For example:

Her fear is that the plane might crash during the storm.

The question is how do we get out of this mess now.

The rumor is that the company is going bankrupt.

Object Complements

An object complement is a word or group of words that follows and describes or renames a direct object in a sentence. It provides additional information about the direct object. For example:

He makes me mad.

Here, 'me' is the direct object of the verb 'make', and the adjective 'mad' is the object complement that completes the meaning.

Object complements can appear in different forms:

  • Noun and noun phrases: We use nouns and noun phrases as object complements when the sentence has a factitive verb such as elect, appoint, make, choose, deem, assign, name, select, vote and etc. Factitive verbs are used to indicate the result or state of the object after the action of the verb. For example:

We named our son Alan.

They voted him the best actor for his latest movie.

Johnny put the turkey in the oven.

They sent him home.

using a complement in a sentence

  • Adjectives and Adjective Phrases: Adjectives or adjective phrases can modify or describe the direct object of a sentence. However, as with all object complements, these adjectives must immediately follow the direct object they are modifying. If they are placed before the direct object, they are acting as attributive adjectives and are not necessary to complete the meaning of the sentence. Pay attention to some examples:

I want to make my friend happy.

It got me worried sick!

  • Prepositional phrases: A prepositional phrase can also be used to complement the direct object. Have a look:

She had a fear of heights.

I always consider myself above others.

Adjective Complements

An adjective complement, also known as an adjective phrase complement, is a phrase or clause that provides essential information to complete the meaning of the adjective. Adjective complements can take the form of prepositional phrases and to-infinitives, or noun clauses:

  • Prepositional Phrases: A prepositional phrase indicates the relationship between the adjective it complements and the object of the preposition. Pay attention to the examples:

I am absolutely happy on my own.

Laura felt alone in the whole wide world.

  • To-infinitive clause: They provide additional information about the actions or behaviors that result from the adjective they are complementing. For example:

I am very pleased to meet you.

I am really honored to be of service.

  • Noun Clauses: Noun Clauses are dependent clauses that function similarly to a noun. They serve to connect the meaning of the adjective to an action performed by a secondary subject. Take a look at the examples:

We were a little curious why they decided to leave.

We are so excited that Martin is coming to stay with us for the summer.

Noun complements

Some words can serve as complements to nouns, typically appearing immediately after the noun they complement. They add extra information to a noun to clarify or complete its meaning. Noun complements usually appear in three forms, which are:

  • Prepositional phrases: A prepositional phrase which serves as a noun complement usually appear after the words of quantity. These types of complements are completely necessary. Almost all the meaning in the noun phrase comes from the complement, not the main word. For example:

She bought a bunch of flowers.

As you can see, "bunch" always needs a complement to clarify its meaning.

There was a passel of kids at the park.

  • That-clauses: a that-clause that serves as a noun complement usually comes directly after certain nouns. These nouns can be reporting nouns such as comment, remark, speech, claim or they can be abstract nouns like idea, fact and reason. For example:

His comment that the movie was a masterpiece resonated with the audience.

Her remark that the weather was unpredictable proved to be accurate.

the fact that you don't remember my name bothers me a lot.

  • To-infinitive clauses: A to-infinitive clause can be used as a noun complement to talk about the aim or intention behind the noun. For example:

Their plan to renovate the old house is ambitious.

The agreement to start the project made everyone happy.

Subject Complements vs. Objects

Subject complements and objects have similar functions in a sentence, but the difference lies in the verb used. To understand this difference, it is important to first discuss the distinction between action verbs and linking verbs:

  • Action verbs are used when the subject performs an action, and the object receives the action. The subject of the sentence answers the question 'who' or 'what' is performing the action. For example:

She ate the cake.

They play soccer.

  • Linking verbs are used to connect the subject of a sentence to a subject complement, which provides additional information about the subject. Unlike action verbs, linking verbs do not express an action performed by the subject such as be, become, taste, look and feel. For example:

She is a doctor.

He became tired.

The cake looks delicious.

They feel excited about the upcoming trip.

The cake tasted fantastic.

Complement vs. Adjunct

Adjuncts are optional, and add extra information to the clause. Complements, on the other hand, are essential in order to complete the meaning of the clause.
If an element cannot be removed from the sentence without affecting its meaning, it is likely to be a complement. For example:

Johnny put the turkey in the oven.

'Put' is a verb that requires a complement. Without the complement, the clause would not be complete.

I usually go camping on the weekends.

'On the weekends' is an adjunct. It is not essential to complete the meaning of the verb 'go.'


'Complements' are parts of a sentence that give more essential information. It means they cannot be removed from the sentence because it impairs the meaning. There are many types of complements that we discussed in the article:

Noun Adjective That-clause Prepositional phrase Noun clause To-infinitive Adverb Pronoun
Subject complement
Object complement
Adjective complement
Noun complement


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