What is a predicative complement?
A predicative complement completes the meaning of a sentence by giving information about a noun. Predicative complements follow linking verbs — verbs which do not denote an action but rather connect a noun to information about the noun.
Most commonly, linking verbs are forms of be (is, are, was, etc.). Other linking verbs include: appear, feel, look, and seem.
An example of a predicative complement is angry in the following:
“Greg felt angry.”
Notice how angry gives more information about the pronoun Greg, and the verb felt is used to link Greg to that information rather than to tell the reader about an action that was carried out.
Predicative complements vs. objects
Predicative complements are quite similar to (and easily confused with) objects. The difference is that predicative complements follow linking verbs, and objects do not.
This distinction can be tricky because some verbs sometimes function as a linking verb and sometimes do not. Feel is an example. Let’s again consider the sentence above in which felt is a linking verb and angry is thus a predicative complement:
“He felt angry.”
Compare it to the sentence below in which felt is describing that the action of touching something was carried out:
“Greg felt the fabric.”
Because feeling is action in this second sentence, the fabric is an object and not a predicative complement.
Look at the following two sentences and see if you can determine which contains a predicative complement and which contains an object:
“He looked out the window.”
“He looked calm.”
The first of these contains an object (the window), and the second contains a predicative complement (calm).
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