What are Complements?

What is a Complement?

A complement is a word or group of words that complete the meaning being conveyed by the subject and the verb, giving sentences more detail, texture, and depth. Only nouns, pronouns, and adjectives can act as complements; verbs and adverbs cannot. 

What are the Types of Complements?

1. Direct Object

An object acted upon by the verb is easily identified as the direct object of a sentence. Simply, direct objects receive the action of the verb (transitives), or show the result of the verb's action. 

  • Mary carried a pot
  • Philip painted the door.
  • Arthur called Cely.  

2. Indirect Object

If direct objects answer the question "who" or "what" is being acted upon by the verb, indirect objects indicate "for whom", or "for what" the verb's action is performed. A sentence with a transitive verb can have an indirect object only if it has a direct object. 

  • My boyfriend bought me an expensive bag. ('Bag' is the direct object, me is the indirect object.) 
  • I owe my employer a lot of money. ('A lot of money' is the direct object, employer is the indirect object.)  
  • The old man built the children a treehouse. ('Treehouse' is the direct object, children is the indirect object.) 

3. Object Complement 

At times, a direct object does not come with an indirect object but with an object complement. This complement is either a noun or an adjective, but never a pronoun. Object complements modify direct objects of verbs.

  • The rain made the grass wet. ('Grass' is the direct object, wet is the object complement.) 
  • Call me Melisandre. ('Me' is the direct object of the verb 'call', Melisandre is the object complement.)
  • Most people considered Picasso a genius. ('Picasso' is the direct object, 'genius' is the object complement.) 
  • Everyone in the class sees him as a sort of clown. ('Him' is the direct object, a sort of clown is the object complement.)

4. Subject Complement 

Sentences containing intransitive verbs (i.e. verbs that do not need direct or indirect objects and apparently, object complements) can have subject complements. Subject complements are words or phrases that describe the subject in the sentence. These complements could be a predicate noun, a predicate pronoun, or a predicate adjective, each of which gives context to a sentence.

  • Melinda is a new substitute teacher at a school located in a poor remote barrio
  • That slovenly-dressed pedestrian is the culprit.
  • The chicken noodles at the new Thai restaurant tastes delicious
  • Your task is to get across the river without being seen.

Reference: 

  • English Plain and Simple by Jose A. Carillo (The Manila Times Publishing Corp., 2008)
  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)

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