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In writing, it’s helpful to know the ingredients of a strong sentence. In sentences that contain linking verbs, one important component is a subject complement. We’ll learn all about subject complements in this lesson.

Complements

Don’t you love it when you find just the right necklace or scarf to make your outfit perfect? Or what about when you have gone out to dinner and had a good meal, and then gotten a dessert that made the meal absolutely amazing? It’s great when things like that happen, right? Well, that necklace or scarf has complemented the outfit, and that dessert has complemented the meal.If you look closely at the word complement, you may be reminded of the word ‘complete.

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‘ A complement is something that completes or finishes something else – a complement makes it better. Just like an accessory can complete an outfit and a dessert can complete a meal, making them better, a subject complement adds information that makes the subject of the sentence more complete.Before we explore some examples, let’s review a couple of key terms.

Terms to Know

The subject of a sentence tells who or what the sentence is about.

The subject can be a noun, pronoun, or group of words that acts as a noun.

  • Christina baked a cake.

The subject in this sentence is ‘Christina.’A linking verb expresses a state of being and connects the subject to a subject complement. Linking verbs are often forms of the verb ‘be.

‘ Some other linking verbs include: ‘appear,’ ‘seem,’ ‘feel,’ ‘sound,’ and ‘become.’

  • Pablo is hungry.

The linking verb in this sentence is ‘is.’

What Is a Subject Complement?

A subject complement is a word that comes after a linking verb and renames, identifies, or describes the subject. There are two main types of subject complements: predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives.

Predicate Nominatives

A predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun that comes after the linking verb. It can rename or identify the subject. Let’s take a look at some sentences. See if you can find a predicate nominative:

  • Maria Luisa is my neighbor.

In this sentence, ‘Maria Luisa’ is the subject. The linking verb is ‘is.’ The word ‘neighbor’ is a noun that identifies Maria Luisa.

‘Neighbor’ is the predicate nominative: Maria Luisa = neighbor.Let’s take a look at another sentence:

  • Keith’s uncle was his soccer coach.

The subject of this sentence is ‘uncle.’ The linking verb is ‘was.’ The noun ‘coach’ is a predicate nominative that renames uncle: uncle = coach.

Predicate Adjectives

A predicate adjective is an adjective that comes after the linking verb. It describes the subject. Let’s take a look at a sentence with a predicate adjective:

  • My dryer is broken.

In this sentence, the subject is ‘dryer.’ ‘Is’ is the linking verb. The word ‘broken’ is an adjective describing dryer.

‘Broken’ is a predicate adjective: dryer = broken.Let’s look at another sentence:

  • The cookies smell delicious.

The subject of this sentence is ‘cookies.’ The linking verb is ‘smell.’ The predicate adjective, ‘delicious,’ describes cookies: cookies = delicious.

Sentence Pattern for Subject Complements

A sentence that contains a subject complement follows this pattern:

  • subject + linking verb + subject complement

This can be either:

  • subject + linking verb + predicate adjective

Or

  • subject + linking verb + predicate nominative

Note that there may be other words in the sentence, such as articles (a, an, the), adjectives, or adverbs.

But a sentence with a subject complement always contains these three main parts in this order.

Examples

Let’s construct a few sentences using subject complements.1.First, let’s construct a sentence where the subject complement is a predicate adjective.

Remember the pattern:

  • subject + linking verb + predicate adjective
    • Sarah + will be + angry
    • Sarah will be angry.

2. Now, let’s construct a sentence where the subject complement is a predicate nominative. The pattern is:

  • Subject + linking verb + predicate nominative
    • dog + was + hero
    • The dog was a hero.

Lesson Summary

A subject complement comes after a linking verb and identifies, renames, or describes the subject. It can be either a predicate nominative or a predicate adjective.

Sentences with subject complements follow the pattern:

  • subject + linking verb + subject complement

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