subject complement

A complement (spelled with an e) is something that completes. And a subject complement is something that completes our idea of the subject of a sentence by giving us more information about it. Usually, the subject complement is a noun, a pronoun or an adjective.

Location in the sentence

A subject complement is found in the predicate of a sentence (the part of the sentence that contains the verb and makes a statement about the subject).

The subject complement follows a linking verb (a verb that expresses a state of being). A verb of being is called a linking verb because it simply links the subject with the subject complement, without expressing any action. In a sentence with a linking verb and a subject complement, the subject is not doing anything; instead, the subject is being something.

Our most common linking verb is the verb be and its forms am, is, are, was, were, been and being. In addition, the verbs seem, appear, become, grow, look, feel, sound, smell and taste can all act as linking verbs.


Here are some examples of sentences with linking verbs and subject complements:

  • Jan is an excellent doctor.

Here, the subject complement is the noun doctor (along with its modifiers an excellent), which tells us something about the subject Jan; the verb is simply links them without expressing any action.

  • The winners of the bubble-tea-drinking contest are you and Wang.

In the above example, the pronoun you and the noun Wang are the subject complements identifying the subject winners; the verb are simply links them without expressing any action.

  • Arabella’s recipe for turnip cordial tasted unusual.

Here, the subject complement unusual is an adjective describing the subject recipe; the verb tasted simply links them without expressing any action.

  • The players seem excited about the upcoming game.

In this last example, the subject complement excited is an adjective describing the subject players; the verb seem simply links them without expressing any action.

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A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

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