, a complement is a word
, or clause
that is necessary to complete the meaning of a given expression. Complements are often also argument
s (expressions that help complete the meaning of a predicate
Predicative, subject and object complements
In many non-theoretical grammars, the terms ''subject complement
'' and ''object complement
'' are employed to denote the predicative expression
s (such as predicative adjectives and nominals) that serve to assign a property to a subject or an object:
::Ryan is upset. – Predicative adjective as subject complement
::Rachelle is the boss. – Predicative nominal as subject complement
::That made Michael lazy. – Predicative adjective as object complement
::We call Rachelle the boss. – Predicative nominal as object complement
This terminology is used in grammar books:
However, this use of terminology is avoided by many modern theories of syntax, which typically view the expressions in bold as part of the clause predicate
, which means they are not complements of the subject or object but rather are properties that are predicated of the subject or object.
The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language assigns the term "predicative complement" to both uses and shifts the terminological distinction to the verb:
:: Ed seemed quite competent: — complex-intransitive verb + predicative complement
:: She considered Ed quite competent : — complex-transitive verb + predicative complement
In many modern grammars (for instance in those that build on the X-bar framework
), the object argument of a verbal predicate is called a complement. In fact, this use of the term is the one that currently dominates in linguistics. A main aspect of this understanding of complements is that the subject is usually not a complement of the predicate:
::He wiped the counter. – ''the counter'' is the object complement of the verb ''wiped''.
::She scoured the tub. – ''the tub'' is the object complement of the verb ''scoured''.
While it is less common to do so, one sometimes extends this reasoning to subject arguments:
::He wiped the counter. – ''He'' is the subject complement of the verb ''wiped''.
::She scoured the tub. – ''She'' is the subject complement of the verb ''scoured''.
In those examples, the subject and object arguments are taken to be complements. In this area, the terms ''complement'' and ''argument'' thus overlap in meaning and use. Note that this practice takes a subject complement to be something very different from the subject complements of traditional grammar, which are predicative expressions, as just mentioned above.
Construed in the broadest sense, any time a given expression is somehow necessary in order to render another expression "complete", it can be characterized as a complement of that expression:
[See Radford (2004:329) for an explanation of complements along these lines.]
::with the class – The NP ''the class'' is the complement of the preposition, ''with''.
::Jim will help. – The main verb ''help'' is the complement of the auxiliary verb, ''will''.
::Chris gave up. – The particle ''up'' is the complement of the verb ''gave''.
::as a friend – The NP ''a friend'' is the complement of the preposition, ''as''.
Construed in the broad sense, many complements cannot be understood as arguments. The argument concept is tied to the predicate
concept in a way that the complement concept is not.
In linguistics, an adjunct is an optional, or structurally-dispensable, part of a sentence, clause, or phrase that, when it is removed, will not affect the remainder of the sentence except to discard from it some auxiliary information. A more detailed definition of the adjunct emphasizes its attribute as a modifying form, word, or phrase that depends on another form, word, or phrase, being an element of clause structure with adverbial function. An adjunct is not an argument or a predicative expression, and an argument is not an adjunct. The argument-adjunct distinction is central in most theories of syntax and semantics. The terminology used to denote arguments and adjuncts can vary depending on the theory at hand. Some dependency grammars, for instance, employ the term circonstant (instead of adjunct) and follow Tesnière (1959).
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