A subject complement is a word or phrase which follows a linking verb (e.g., to be, to become, to appear, to feel, to look, to smell, to taste) and describes or identifies the subject.
A subject complement is either an adjective, a noun, or a pronoun. For example (subject complements shaded):
Read more about adjective phrases.
- He will be fine.
(The linking verb is will be (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement describes the subject He. It is an adjective.)
- Ben is a policeman.
(The linking verb is is (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement identifies the subject Ben. It is a noun.)
- I am he.
(The linking verb is am (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement identifies the subject I. It is a pronoun.)
- That pie looks burnt to a cinder.
(The linking verb is looks. The subject complement describes the subject That pie. It is an adjective. Don't forget adjectives (just like nouns) also come in the form of phrases.)
Read more about noun phrases.
More Examples of Subject Complements
In the examples below the subject complements are shaded and the linking verbs are bold:
- Ella was a ghost. She appeared at 12 and looked stunning.
- Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work . (Thomas A Edison, 1847-1931)
(Remember, adjectives and nouns can come in the forms of adjective phrases and noun phrases too.)
- If you put butter and salt on popcorn, it tastes like salty butter. (Terry Pratchett)
- As for me, except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did. (Robert Benchley, 1889-1945)
What are complements?
What are object complements?
What are linking verbs?
Glossary of grammatical terms