Subject Complement (with Examples)

What Is a Subject Complement? (with Examples)

A subject complement is a word or phrase that follows a linking verb and describes or identifies the subject. (Note: A linking verb is a verb used to link a subject to the new identity or description. Common examples are to be, to become, to appear, to feel, to look, to smell, and to taste.)

subject complement

A subject complement is either an adjective, a noun, or a pronoun.

In the examples below, the linking verbs are in bold and the subject complements are shaded:
  • Ben is a policeman.
  • (The linking verb is is (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement identifies the subject Ben. It is a noun.)

  • He will be fine.
  • (The linking verb is will be (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement describes the subject He. It is an adjective.)

  • I am he.
  • (The linking verb is am (i.e., the verb to be). The subject complement identifies the subject I. It is a pronoun.)

  • That pie looks burnt to a cinder.
  • (The linking verb is looks. The subject complement describes the subject That pie. It is an adjective. Don't forget adjectives (just like nouns) also come in the form of phrases.)
Read more about adjective phrases.
Read more about noun phrases.

More Examples of Subject Complements

Here are some more examples of subject complements:
  • Ella was a ghost. She appeared at 12 and looked stunning.

  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work . (Thomas A Edison, 1847-1931)
  • (Remember, adjectives and nouns can come in the forms of adjective phrases and noun phrases too.)

  • If you put butter and salt on popcorn, it tastes like salty butter. (Terry Pratchett)

  • As for me, except for an occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did. (Robert Benchley, 1889-1945)

See Also

What are complements? What are object complements? What are linking verbs? What is the subjective case? Glossary of grammatical terms