What is a Predicative Complement?
Updated: Apr 23
Predicative Complement Definition
A predicative complement completes the meaning of a sentence by giving information about a noun.
Predicative complements follow linking verbs (i.e., verbs that do not denote an action but instead connect a noun to information about it).
Linking verbs are usually found in a form of the verb to be (e.g., is, are, was). Other linking verbs include appear, feel, look, and seem.
Angry is an example of a predicative complement in the following sentence:
Greg felt angry.
The adjective angry gives information about the noun Greg. The verb felt links these two elements rather than describing an action. For this reason, angry is a predicative complement in this sentence.
Predicative Complements vs. Objects
Predicative complements are quite similar to—and, therefore, easily confused with—objects. The difference is that predicative complements follow linking verbs, while objects do not.
This distinction can be tricky, especially since some verbs function as a linking verb only sometimes, depending on the context.
Feel is an example of such a verb. We established that felt was a linking verb In the previous example ("Greg felt angry"). However, felt can also describe the action of touching something. In such cases, felt is not a linking verb, and so the following word would be an object, not a predicative complement.
An example is given below.
He felt the fabric.
Because feeling is an action in this sentence, fabric is an object.
Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.