Opportunity is missed by most people and it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

In the sentence, are the words 'missed' and 'dressed' subject complements? And I'd like to know whether past participles can be used as subject complements or not.

  • 1
    The first clause look like a verbal passive to me, the active counterpart being "Most people miss opportunity". But in the second clause, "dressed" is a 'state' and hence an adjectival complement (subjective).
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 9:50
  • To answer the second part of your question: there are many adjectives formed of past participles that can be subject complements, as indeed "dressed" is in your example. Some other examples are: "They were very worried"; "They were still happily married": "They became very frightened"). But not all past participles have adjectives formed of them, and thus cannot be subjective complements, e.g. "rumour" as in "It is rumoured that there will be an election soon"; "repute" as in "Kim is reputed to be very rich"; "give" as in "Ed was given a new pair of shoes".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


Most people miss opportunity.

Opportunity is missed by most people.

The second statement is a restatement of the first, as a passive voice construction; you can also understand the second statement to be a simple predicate in which "missed by most people" is a complement applied to Opportunity, the subject.

Learning grammatical concepts and learning to understand and speak a language are often very different things.

It (opportunity) is dressed in overalls (clothing for physical work where the worker gets dirty).

Opportunity dresses itself in overalls. Or perhaps Opportunity is a little child and Opportunity's mother has dressed it in overalls.

Opportunity is dressed in overalls.

"dressed in overalls" is a complement applied to opportunity.

(It) opportunity looks like work.

The verb there is "looks like" or "looks", take your pick. The complement is either "like work" or "work". Opportunity resembles work.

It appears to be work.

Most people miss opportunity because they're expecting it to be something other than hard work.

"To miss" can mean "to fail to be in the right place at the right time".

He missed the train.

He missed an opportunity to get a free update to Windows 10. Perhaps he seized the opportunity to stick with Windows 7. :)

It can also mean "to overlook, to fail to recognize, to fail to notice".

I missed you standing there in the shadows.

Did he really say those words in the murder scene? I totally missed that.

So the statement is a bit of a pun or a play on words. We miss opportunity (as we miss a train) because we fail to recognize it when we see it. We're looking for something flashy, but opportunity is dressed for hard work.

  • Did I miss something? This answer got a downvote only a few minutes after my upvote? Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 10:00
  • To answer the OP's question, are you saying that "missed" and "dressed" are subject complements, i.e adjectives?
    – user36764
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 10:00
  • I'm saying that the complements can all be understood to apply to the subject, even though in the first case, missed, it appears to be simply a passive construction, and in the second, dressed, it could be reflexive or passive, and in the third,looks we could quibble over the nature of perception and whether the attribute inheres in the subject. Can something look a certain way without lookers?
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 10:05
  • The passive "missed by most people" is complement of "is"; together they form the predicate of the sentence. But it is not a subject complement, which is what the OP was asking about. Subject complements occur in active clauses.
    – user36764
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 10:38
  • How are missed and dressed different when missed means "overlooked"?
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 11:53

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