Sunday, January 16, 2011

What are subjective complements?

This is the latest post in a series I'm doing on grammar. When I read Stephen King's On Writing, he wrote that a writer's two primary tools are vocabulary and grammar. I always took grammar for granted, but after reading King's book, I realized I have a lot of learning to do so that I can become more good at grammar. ;)

Subjective complements are located in the predicate of the sentence (amongst the complete verb) and either describe or replace the subject of a sentence.

Subjective complements can only follow a state of being verb or a linking verb, never an action verb.
  1. Predicate adjective: Describes the subject.
  2. Predicate noun (predicate nominative): Renames the subject.
An example of a predicate adjective using a state of being verb:
Steve is handsome.
Subject = Steve
Verb = is (state of being verb)
Predicate adjective = handsome

An example of a predicate adjective using a linking verb:
Steve seems nice.
Subject = Steve
Verb = Seems (linking verb)
Predicate adjective = nice


An example of a predicate noun:
Steve is a soldier.
Subject = Steve
Verb = is (state of being verb)
Predicate noun = soldier
Determiner (article) = a
A reflexive pronoun is a subjective complement only when it follows a state of being verb or a linking verb. If a reflexive pronoun follows an action verb, it is likely a direct object.

Subjective complement using a reflexive pronoun:
John is not himself lately.
Subject = John
Verb = is (state of being verb)
Adverb = not
Adverb = lately
Subjective complement (reflexive pronoun) = himself

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