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'In that year Mary Carson, although she was suffering from cancer, wrote a wonderful book of poetry.'

Identifying the clause constituent, is 'a wonderful book of poetry' here a complement or an object only? The clause adds to the meaning of the subject which makes it look like a complement, at the same time, it seems undeniably an object. Which is correct?

Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

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I am thinking it is a direct object (hence, an object) as it basically answers the question, 'what'. i.e., What did Mary Carson write (in that year)?

hint - There is a basic sentence pattern:

Subject - Transitive Verb - Direct Object

In this sentence pattern, the direct object answers the question 'what' or 'who'.

Complements are usually related to linking verbs.

hint - basic sentence pattern:

Subject - Linking Verb - Complement (adjective or noun complement)

e.g., She is beautiful. (adjective complement); She is a doctor. (noun complement)

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It's an object. Look at it this way:

Mary Carson wrote a book.

"Book" is undeniably the object of the sentence, of which Mary Carson is the subject. Now, subject complements are adjectives that relate to the subject directly with a linking verb, for example "I am hungry." (Here is a good description of subject complements.) Look at this example:

Mary felt sick.

"Mary" is the subject, "sick" is the complement. Note that sick is an adjective. Now, look at this:

Mary felt her forehead.

Here, "forehead", which is a noun, is what is felt. So, forehead is the object.

[Edit] I'm going to quote StoneyB's explanation of the difference between complements and objects from his comment below, and delete mine. StoneyB's explanation is precisely correct, and mine was oversimplified enough to be inaccurate (while objects are always nouns, and complements are often adjectives, to say "complements are adjectives" as I did is incorrect).

Predicate complements are arguments of copular verbs: be, seem, become, &c. Objects are arguments of transitive verbs: write, . A nominal predicate complement identifies the subject; an adjectival predicate complement describes the subject; an object is in some sense acted upon by the subject (in the active voice).

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  • Perhaps the downvoter on this question might help me and everyone else by explaining what's wrong with my answer.
    – BobRodes
    Nov 23, 2015 at 2:13
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    Not my downvote, but nouns may be subject complements, too: Mary is a woman. Nov 23, 2015 at 2:32
  • Darn it, I knew I wasn't liking that part. How would you describe the difference?
    – BobRodes
    Nov 23, 2015 at 3:42
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    Predicate complements are arguments of copular verbs: be, seem, become, &c. Objects are arguments of transitive verbs: write, . A nominal predicate complement identifies the subject; an adjectival predicate complement describes the subject; an object is in some sense acted upon by the subject (in the active voice). Nov 23, 2015 at 4:58
  • In order to make that distinction, you have to believe that there is a special class of "copular verbs" that are never enumerated except with "etc." If you just believe a verb is a verb, you can call a complement an object or a subject and be done with it. Personally, I only use the term complement for clauses that are subjects or objects of verbs. Of whatever type. Aug 3, 2022 at 2:08

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