[The source] is about the completers of thoughts, it is appropriate to include a brief description of complements. A complement (...) is any word or phrase that completes the sense of a subject, an object, or a verb. As you will see, the terminology describing predicates and complements can overlap and be a bit confusing. Students are probably wise to learn one set of terms, not both.

● A subject complement follows a linking verb; it is normally an adjective or a noun that renames or defines in some way the subject.
● Adjective complements = predicate adjectives.
● Noun complements = predicate nouns = predicate nominatives. See predicates, above.
● An object complement follows and modifies or refers to a direct object. It can be a noun or adjective or any word acting as a noun or adjective.
● A verb complement is a direct or indirect object of a verb. (See above.)

Comparing predicates vs complements, what else overlap[s] or is confusing? I simplified the exposition above and want to master both sets of terms (for predicates and complements).

  • 1
    I don't understand what your question is. Are you saying, "Here's an example where two different sets of terminology shows some overlaps and may be confusing. Are there any other examples of multiple sets of terminology regarding the English language that may also be considered overlapping and confusing?" If so, then I think your question is too broad for a reasonable answer.
    – Jim
    Feb 4, 2015 at 4:13
  • @Jim: Thanks for your comment. No, I ask just about this example, because I'm confused what exactly are the overlaps and cause the confusion? I just updated my OP. better?
    – user8712
    Feb 4, 2015 at 4:16
  • Ramona is beautiful. Is beautiful a subject complement or a predicate adjective?
    – Jim
    Feb 4, 2015 at 4:24
  • @Jim: Based on the definition above, I'd guess both? Am I right?
    – user8712
    Feb 4, 2015 at 4:31
  • I'd include Jim's example and the question about the terminology on the grammatical function of 'beautiful' and possible terminological overlaps and ambiguities there. What you gave now shows context, research and puts the example in a broader perspective (so the question serves everyone interested in this topic), but an example would make the question clearer, more specific, and easier to answer. You can ask for additional examples in answers. I'll leave the choice whether you'll edit to you because you are around ELL longer than I am, but I thought I might leave a suggestion in a comment.
    – Lucky
    Jul 11, 2015 at 10:56

2 Answers 2


The text in the link is titled "Predicates, Objects, Complements" and has three sections. When it gets to discuss complements, it simply states that predicates can sometimes be considered to be complements and vice versa. This means there is some overlapping in the definitions.

People who study grammar often want clear definitions that can lead to right/wrong decisions. With overlapping definitions, there may be more than one correct answer. This may lead to confusion.

Personally, I think natural languages (and English in particular) are too powerful to be covered by a finite set of rules (especially rules stated in a natural language...) Ambiguity is unavoidable; we should tolerate it.


A complement is "additional data" used by something. If English was turned into a programmer's API, complements would be function or operator parameters.

There's a number of things in English that take complements or can be complements to other things. For example, transitive verbs need objects, so the words and structures that express those objects are "object complements" to those verbs.

I think predicate is pretty much a fancy term that means "anything in the sentence that is not the subject or directly modifies the subject."

My big brother got lost in the park while he was wandering around like a dummy. (Subject = "My big brother", predicate = "got lost in the park while he was wandering around like a dummy")

Note that sentences like these:

She is beautiful

"She" is the subject and "is beautiful" is the predicate. To be and similar verbs don't "directly" modify the subject, that's why beautiful here is called a "subject complement" (and it's not an object or "object complement" either).

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