Grammar Lesson: Subject Complements

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 13, 2010

A subject complement is a word or group of words within the complete predicate that either identifies (with a predicate nominative) or describes (with a predicate adjective) the subject (doer of the action). There are two types of subject complements—the predicate adjective (the describer) and the predicate nominative (the identifier).

As an example, in the sentence, ''Our Town is a play written by Thornton Wilder,'' the complete predicate, is a play written by Thornton Wilder, includes play (predicate nominative), the word that identifies what Our Town is. In the sentence, ''The play was interesting and inspirational,'' the complete predicate, was interesting and inspirational, includes the words interesting and inspirational (two predicate adjectives) to describe what the play was.

The subject complement is underlined in these sentences.

    O'Hare is a very busy airport. (predicate nominative)
    Mike Smith is a terrific friend. (predicate nominative)
    Indiana's capital city is Indianapolis. (predicate nominative)
    She was the first president of that association. (predicate nominative)
    Mitchell's report was factually correct. (predicate adjective)
    The lake's water was crystal clear. (predicate adjective)
    Gary's parents and grandparents are quite successful in the business world. (predicate adjective)
    The basement was moldy, dusty, and unpainted. (predicate adjectives)


Fill in each blank with a predicate nominative or a predicate adjective.

  1. My uncle's observations are generally .
  2. Kathy's new car is .
  3. Unfortunately, the movie was a(n) .
  4. The name of our school's principal is .
  5. The capital city of Wyoming is .


(Answers will vary.)

Predicate nominative, predicate adjective, or neither?


Five of the underlined words are predicate nominatives (PN); five are predicate adjectives (PA); and five are neither (NE). On the line before each sentence, write the two-letter code to indicate your answer.

  1. ____ Elizabeth Bennet is her favorite literary character.
  2. ____ She is very agile as a dancer.
  3. ____ All of the musicians in the orchestra recalled their favorite experiences.
  4. ____ The younger man is our new state senator.
  5. ____ Last year's festival held in the state capital's fields was fair.
  6. ____ These experienced carpenters displayed great craftsmanship over the last few months.
  7. ____ The immediate effects of the new legislation are widespread.
  8. ____ The message that he tried to interpret was cryptic.
  9. ____ Today's weather conditions are cold and rainy.
  10. ____ Monty and his buddies saw the kayaks in the store's large window.
  11. ____ I had to meet my counselor, Mr. Wilhelm, after lunch.
  12. ____ The most talented scientists in our school are Tameka and Jose.
  13. ____ Tom L. Morgan is the architect in this photograph.
  14. ____ We had never seen them perform before last night.
  15. ____ This past drought was a huge problem for the farmers.


The predicate nominatives are in sentences 1, 4, 12, 13, and 15.

The predicate adjectives are in sentences 2, 5, 7, 8, and 9.

There are no predicate nominatives or predicate adjectives in sentences 3, 6, 10, 11, and 14.

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