Predicative Complements


Posted by Jake Magnum | April 23, 2018 | Predicates


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 (i.e., 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 (e.g., 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 noun Greg and how the verb felt is used to link Greg to that information rather than telling 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 a sentence in which felt is a linking verb and angry is, thus, a predicative complement:

He felt angry.

Compare this to the sentence below, in which felt describes that the action of touching something was carried out:

He felt the fabric.

Because feeling is an 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).


Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.