Object Complement

What Is an Object Complement?

An object complement is a noun, a pronoun, or an adjective that follows a direct object to rename it or state what it has become. For example:
  • I can make John available.
  • (In this example, the direct object is "John." The object complement is "available.")

Table of Contents

  • Examples of Object Complements
  • Verbs That Attract Object Complements
  • Other Types of Complement
  • Why Object Complements Are Important
  • Test Time!
object complement examples

Examples of Object Complements

Here are some more examples of object complements:
  • I found the guard sleeping.
  • We all consider her unworthy.
  • I declare this centre open.
  • We consider fish spoiled once it smells like what it is.
  • To obtain a man's opinion of you, make him mad. (Physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes)
An object complement is not always one word. It could be a phrase. For example:
  • I found the guard sleeping in the barn.
  • We all consider her unworthy of the position.

Verbs That Attract Object Complements

Verbs of making (e.g., "to make," "to create") or naming (e.g., "to name," "to call," "to elect") often attract an object complement. In the examples below, the object complements are shaded and the direct objects are in bold.
  • To make her happy
  • To name her Heidi
However, lots of verbs can take an object complement. For example:
  • To consider someone stupid
  • To paint something purple
  • To catch somebody stealing

Other Types of Complement

If you're learning about object complements, it is worth comparing them to subject complements. A subject complement is a word or phrase that follows a linking verb and identifies or describes the subject. For example (subject complements in bold):
  • John is the captain.
  • Myra looks angry.
  • (In these examples, "the captain" and "angry" are the subject complements. They follow linking verbs ("is" and "looks") to tell us about the subjects ("John" and "Myra".)
Now compare the subject complements above with the object complements in the similar-looking examples below. (In these examples, the objects are in bold and the object complements are shaded.)
  • We named John the captain.
  • We made Myra angry.
  • (The verbs are "named" and "made." The object complements tell us about the objects of the verbs ("John" and "Myra").)
Read more about subject complements. Read more about complements in general.

Why Object Complements Are Important

Native English speakers have few problems when using a construction like "to make them happy" or "to consider the job finished." Such constructions do not cause too many difficulties for English learners either. However, if you're learning a foreign language (like Russian) that puts its complements in a different case (the instrumental case in the case of Russian), then you should pay more attention to spotting complements.

For native English speakers, the biggest writing issue related to complements occurs more commonly with subject complements, but, it can also occur with object complements too.

(Issue 1) Don't use an adverb as a complement.

A complement is an adjective, noun, or pronoun. It's never an adverb. Look at this example:
  • The garlic has made the soup awfully. wrong cross
  • (An object complement cannot be an adverb.)
  • The garlic has made the soup awful. correct tick
  • (Here, the object complement is an adjective.)
This is a rare mistake with object complements. It is far more common with subject complements. For example:
  • The soup tastes awfully. wrong cross
  • (A subject complement cannot be an adverb.)
  • The soup tastes awful. correct tick
  • (Here, the subject complement is an adjective.)
Ironically, this mistake occurs most commonly with people who consciously think about whether they should be using adjectives or adverbs.

Key Point

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.