Demystifying Subject Complements: Predicate Adjectives and Predicate Nominatives

When we start talking about subject complements, predicate adjectives, and predicate nominatives, it can get quite confusing!

In this article I'll try and demystify these concepts and explain simply what they are are how they are connected.

What are Subject Complements?

Subject complements are vital elements in English grammar, providing essential information about the subject in a sentence. They come in two distinct forms: predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives.

Predicate Adjectives

These are adjectives that follow a linking verb (also known as a copulative verb) and describe the subject. The linking verb establishes a connection between the subject and the predicate adjective. Common linking verbs include "be," "become," "seem," "appear," "feel," and "look."

  • She is happy.
  • The cake smells delicious.

Predicate Nominatives

These are nouns or pronouns that follow a linking verb and rename the subject. Predicate nominatives help identify or redefine the subject of a sentence. Linking verbs like "be," "become," and "seem" are often used.

  • He is a teacher.
  • She became the captain.

Subject Complements and Linking Verbs

As noted above, linking verbs play a crucial role in connecting the subject to its complement. Here's a list of common linking verbs to help you identify subject complements:

  • Be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.)
  • Become
  • Seem
  • Appear
  • Look
  • Feel
  • Taste
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Stay
  • Grow
  • Turn
  • Remain
  • Get
  • Keep
  • Come

Subject Complements Vs Objects

Subject complements might seem similar to objects, but they serve distinct purposes in a sentence.

Objects receive the action of a transitive verb or indicate who or what is affected by the action. They can be direct objects or indirect objects.

Example with Direct Object:

  • She baked a cake.

Example with Indirect Object:

  • She gave him a gift.

On the other hand, subject complements complement the subject and provide additional information about it. They follow linking verbs, which connect the subject to the complement. So they are not about actions, but are about states.

Example with Predicate Adjective:

  • She is happy.

Example with Predicate Nominative:

  • She became a doctor.

More Examples of Predicate Nominatives & Predicative Adjectives

Now, let's distinguish between predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives further using some example sentences:

Predicate Nominatives (Renaming the Subject):

  1. My sister is a nurse.
  2. John became the president.
  3. The winner of the competition was Mary.
  4. Sarah will be my mentor.
  5. The dessert smells an absolute delight.

Predicate Adjectives (Describing the Subject):

  1. The flowers are beautiful.
  2. The cake became stale.
  3. The child seemed anxious.
  4. The coffee tastes bitter.
  5. The music sounds soothing.


In summary, predicate nominatives rename the subject, while predicate adjectives describe the subject. Both are crucial in providing clarity and context to English sentences.

Subject complements may appear complex initially, but with practice, they become a valuable tool for effective communication in the English language. By understanding the role of linking verbs, recognising the difference between objects and subject complements, and distinguishing between predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives, you'll enhance your English language skills significantly.

I hope this detailed explanation of subject complements, including predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives, has made this grammatical concept more accessible and comprehensible to you.

Happy learning!

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