Subject / Predicate / Complement

Recognize primary grammatical functions in a sentence

Charlie-the subject
 

Basic Functions in a Clause

SUBJECT PREDICATE / PREDICATOR COMPLEMENT

The subject is the cause, agent, person or thing doing the action. It usually takes form as a noun phrase with a head noun, a determiner and possibly some modifiers. It may also take form as a phrase or a clause. (See examples in the sections below.)

The predicate is the action or change in state. It is realized as a verb or a verb group that may include a modal or one or more auxiliaries.  A predicate is also called predicator to distinguish it from the traditional meaning as one of two sentence parts—subject or predicate.

A complement is one or more elements required by the subject or verb to complete the meaning of the sentence. It may be a direct object (He gave a gift.), an indirect object (He gave me a gift.), a predicative complement (He is good.) or some other element.

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N / NP / PRN / CLAUSE AUX / V N / NP / ADJ / PHRASE / CLAUSE

Charlie  proper noun

rose. 

(none required) 

The boy   determiner + noun

raised 

his hand  (DO) direct object

My little boy    determiner + adjective + noun

gave

me  (IO) indirect object his hand. (DO)

He    pronoun

is / seems    static verbs

 

happy. (Adj)

Being enthusiastic    gerund clause (phrase)

is  

 

his best quality. (NP) noun phrase

In the front row    prepositional phrase

is  

 

his desk. (NP)

That he is so enthusiastic clause

surprises  

 

us. pronoun

rise (V) – intransitive; does not take an object.

raise (V) – transitive; requires an object.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subject

A head noun and its modifiers

 

 

 

The subject may take form as:

 

Noun Phrase — with modifiers before the noun

MODIFIER MODIFIER HEAD NOUN
ADV ADJ / NP N

Exceptionally, very  (Degree Adv)

clever, enthusiastic, cheerful, eager, helpful, honest, curious, cooperative, humorous

     Charlie Charlie – the subject (head noun)

 

Six-year-old, self-starter, independent-learner, fun-loving, know-it-all, bright-eyed

 

Junior, Master, Mister, Chef, Captain, Officer

 

 

 

Noun Phrase — with a determiner before and modifiers after the noun

MARKER HEAD NOUN MODIFIER
DET N NP / ADJ / PP / NONFINITE / CLAUSE

The only / youngest / smartest

     child child – the subject (head noun)

present  (Adjectives after the noun are rare.)

A / another

his age / his size 

The / this / that

in kindergarten

Each / every / one

starting kindergarten

Such a clever  

placed in kindergarten

Whichever

who does well in kindergarten

Head noun – the head noun is the main noun. It is distinguished from other nouns which may function as modifiers or as parts of other phrases.

Pre-head modifiers are placed before the noun.  Post-head modifiers are placed after the noun.

 

(Huddleston "The subject" 4 §3, "Complements vs adjuncts"  §1.2, "Complements vs modifiers" 5 §14) (Swan "Sentence Structure" 509)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicate

A verb or verb group

 

 

 

The predicate may take form as:

 

Auxiliary(ies) and a Verb Form

HEAD NOUN AUXILIARY AUXILIARY AUXILIARY VERB
N / NP MODAL  HAVE  BE  

     Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

 

 

 

raises  (3rd p. sing.)

 

 

 

raised  (past form)

will 

 

 

raise  (plain form)

will 

 

be

raising (pres. participle)

 

has 

 

raised  (past. participle)

   

has

been

raising 

will 

have

 

raised 

rise (V) – intransitive; does not take an object.

raise (V) –  transitive; requires an object.

 

 

 

Auxiliary Determines Next Verb Form

AUXILIARY ⇒ NEXT FORM TYPE PRES / (FUTURE) PAST PERFECT

MODAL PLAIN FORM
— will, would, may, might,can, could, shall, should, ought

Charlie willraise his hand.

Charlie wouldraise his hand.

Charlie wouldhave raised his hand.

PERFECT PAST PARTICIPLE
has, have, had  

Charlie hasraised his hand.

Charlie had raised his hand.

Charlie hadraised his hand. (same as past)

PROGRESSIVE  GERUND-PARTICIPLE
is / are, was / were, been 

Charlie israising his hand.

Charlie wasraising his hand.

Charlie has beenraising his hand.

PASSIVE PAST PARTICIPLE
is / are, was / were, been 
     

His hand Israised.

His hand  was ⇒raised

Charlie's hand had beenraised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicate Complements

An element required after a static verb

 

 

 

The predicate complement may take form as:

 

Be and Static Verb Complements

SUBJECT PREDICATE – STATIC VERB PREDICATIVE COMPLEMENT 

    Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

is

happy.   (Adj)    "ascriptive be"

is

a student / nine. (NP) "descriptive be"   

is

in trouble / in class / on time. (PP)

seems

better  (Adj) 

appears 

pleased (Adj) 

became 

angry (Adj)

fell 

asleep (Adj)

*A "be" verb may be followed by an adjective ("descriptive be") or a noun ("specifying be") Specifying vs. Ascriptive "be"

(Huddleston 4 5.4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complements

Elements required by the subject and predicate

 

 

 

A complement may take form as:

 

Predicate Complements

ADVERB 1 PREDICATE INDIRECT OBJECT  DIRECT OBJECT OTHER

    Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

raised 

 

his hand. (NP)

 

washed

 

his hands

clean.   (Adj as Comp)

put 

 

his lunch    

away(verb particle)

gave 

me 

his hand    

 

gave 

 

his hand    

to me. (PP – indirect object)

does

 

 

remarkably well. (ADV) 

loves

 

 

to answer. (INF)

enjoys

 

 

singing.   (GER)

knows

 

 

that he is very clever.   (subordinate clause)

preposition of place, preposition of time, adjective as complement,  finite/nonfinite clause

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjuncts

Elements not required by the subject and predicate

 

 

 

An adjunct may take form as:

 

Clause Adjuncts

MODIFIER TO MODIER MODIFIER TO PRED PREDICATE OBJECT    MODIFIER TO PRED
DEGREE ADVERBS ADVERBS V NP ADV / PP

rather

quickly

raised 

his hand.

 

all   too 

often 

put 

his hand    

in my face

 

now 

raised 

his hand    

in the air

 

only

waved

his hand

for a moment.

very

confidently

rose (intransitive)

 

upward

 

whenever he can

shows   

me his hand 

 

 

all of a sudden 

stretched   

his hand  

high

modifies modifier to verb
"How much?"

modifies verb
"How?"

 

 

modifies verb
"Where?"

*rose (V) – stood up

because, if, whether, when, etc. have been moved to the category of preposition in linguistic descriptions  (They are also known as conjunctions or adverbial prepositions)

Adverbs include degree, manner, frequency, focus, time, place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supplements

Elements that are loosely related to the clause

 

 

 

Supplements are interpolations (interrupt the flow of thought) or appendages (attached "loosely" at the beginning or end of the clause). In writing, they are often set off by commas, dashes, parentheses or colons.   In speech, they are intonationally distinct or separate from the rest of the clause.

An supplement may take form as:

 

Clause Supplements

SUBJECT SUPPLEMENT THE REST OF THE CLAUSE

    Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

— the happiest guy I know—

is only six years old.

, it seems to me,

is loved by his classmates.

(his real name is Charles Alphonso)

walks to school alone.

, if you will,

is a genius.

SUBJECT THE CLAUSE SUPPLEMENT

    Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

is exceptionally cheerful

— the happiest guy I know!

is loved by his classmates

, or so it seems.

is exceptionally smart

: he was reading at age 2 1/2.

wants to be on Jeopardy too

, if I may add.

SUPPLEMENT SUBJECT THE CLAUSE

Maybe,

    Charlie
Charlie – the subject (head noun)

will be the President.

Fortunately,

he has a few years to decide.

Frankly,

needs to relax and just be a kid.

By the way,

he is an only child.

See Comma-Comments , Dashes and Parentheses

See Stance Adverbs: Adv for EvaluationAdv for Opinion, Adv for Speech Acts, Adv for Linking and Discourse Markers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Function / Category

What is does vs. What its called

 

 

 

Function vs. Category

GRAMMATICAL FUNCTION

Subject – (Subj) The subject is the cause, agent or doer of the action.

Charlie raised his hand.

Predicate/Predicator – (Pred) The predicate is the action or change in state.

Charlie raised his hand.

Complement – Comp  – A complement is an element that is required by the subject or verb to complete the meaning of the sentence such as a direct object (DO), indirect object (IO), predicative complement (PC).

Charlie raised his hand.  (The verb raised requires a direct object.)

Adjunct – An adjunct is an element not required by the verb, an optional element such as a modifier, a subordinate clause, or a supplemental clause, which can be omitted and the clause still makes sense.  

Charlie raised his hand in the air. / Charlie raised his hand because he knew the answer. / Charlie raises his hand if he knows the answer.

Supplement – a comment in the form of a word, phrase or clause that is loosely related to the central idea of the sentence. It is often separated by a comma.

Who, do you think, he raised his hand? By the way, Charlie raised his hand. Hopefully, Charlie knows the answer.

LEXICAL CATEGORY / PART OF SPEECH

N – noun / pronoun Charlie / He 

NP – noun phrase   the boy / the little boy

V – verb   He talks

VP – verb phrase is talking. 

Adj – adjective smart 

AdjP – adjective phrase very smart 

Adv – adverb He speaks quickly

AdvP – adverb phrase He speaks rather quickly

P – preposition  The doctor is in. (in his office) 

PP – prepositional phrase   He went in the room.

D – determiners (articles, quantifiers, demonstratives, possessives, etc.) The boys / Some boys / these boys / our boys know the answer.

DP — determinative phrase Almost every boy knows the answer.

Subord – subordinator He knows that he is funny.

Coord – coordinator   He is running and jumping.

Interj – interjection  Oh man! Look at him run.

 

Subject-verb is a term like salt and pepper.  To be precise, we should pair subject with predicate.

(Huddleston "Syntactic Categories" 1§4.2.2)

 

 

 

A grammatical function may take form as: 

SUBJECT PREDICATE / PREDICATOR COMPLEMENT ADJUNCT

A subject can take the form of:

A predicate can take the form of:

A complement can take the form of:

An adjunct can take the form of:

  • Noun  (N)
  • Noun Phrase (NP
  • Phrase
  • Clause
  • Aux
  • Verb
  • Noun  (N / NP
  • Adv
  • PP
  • Verb Particle
  • Infinitive
  • Gerund
  • Subord Clause
  • Noun  (N)
  • Noun Phrase (NP
  • Phrase
  • Clause

The above are intended as examples and are not a complete listing.

 

 

 

A lexical category (part of speech) may function as: 

NOUN / NP VERB / VP ADJ / ADJP ADV / ADVP

A noun may function as:

A verb may function as:

An adjective may function as:

An adverb may function as:

  • a subject
  • a direct object
  • an indirect object 
  • object of a preposition
  • a modifier an office chair
  • a predicate (primary verb in a finite clause) speaks
  • one or more auxiliaries
  • a gerund / infinitive / participle clause head (secondary verb in a nonfinite clause) speaking in class,to speak in class, having spoken in class
  • a modifier It was a high wall.
  • a verb complement  He raised his hand high.
  • a modifier   He spoke loudly.
  • an intensifier  He spoke very loudly.
  • a focuser Only he spoke today. 
  • delimiter He answer was partly correct.
  • locater  He went inside. 
  • (and so on. See adverb functions.)

The above are intended as examples, and are not a complete list of lexical categories and their functions.

 

 

 

Labeling for function and part of speech

He

SubjectN

always

AdjunctAdv

raises

PredicateV 

his hand

CompNP (DO) direct object

before me.

AdjunctPP

Charlie

SubjectNP

very quietly

AdjunctAdvP

told

PredicateV 

me

CompN (IO) indirect object

the answer.

CompNP (DO)

The boy

SubjectNP

that raised his hand

Comprelative clause

is sitting

PredicateVP

next to you.

AdjunctPP

 

 

Some of the boys

SubjectNP quantifier

were annoyed

PredicateVP passive

by Charlie's behavior.

AdjunctPP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

 

Traditional vs Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In traditional grammar, a clause is constructed with a subject and a verb.  The subject may consist of additional modifiers: determiner, adjective, prepositional phrase, adjective phrase, etc.  The verb is either dynamic or stative.  Dynamic verbs take adverb modifiers, stative verbs do not. The verb is either intransitive (does not accept an object) or transitive (accepts an object).  If it does accept an object, then the object can also take additional modifiers.

In traditional grammar, when a noun has a modifier, the word "adjective" is used both for the "part of speech" and for the function (of modifying). No distinction is made between category (part of speech) and function (a relational concept).  For this reason, in current grammar descriptions, one does not say "adjective clause" (a clause cannot be an adjective, but a clause can function as a modifier) or "a noun used as an adjective" (a noun cannot be an adjective, but a noun can function as a modifier).

In current linguistic description, a clause includes a subject and a predicate which are respectively realized with a noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase (VP).  A NP consists of a head noun and determiners (if required) and modifiers (optional).   The head governs (determines) the dependents, elements that can be added to the noun phrase . "The head of a clause is realized by a verb phrase VP. And the head of the VP is realized by a verb. "The verb thus functions as the ultimate head of the clause, and is the syntactically more important element within it: properties of the verb determine what other kinds of elements are required or permitted."  (See Huddleston  for a more precise and complete summary. "Sentence and Clause" 2.1–8)

CATEGORIES:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective

FUNCTIONS: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complements: (elements required by predicate) Object, Indirect Object, Predicative Complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj, AdjP, Adv, AdvP, PP.s
 

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  — SUBJECT TREE DIAGRAM — SUBJECT

The clever boy next to you raised his hand

complex subject tree 

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  — PREDICATE TREE DIAGRAM — PREDICATE

Charlie suddenly raised his hand high in the air

tree diagram of predicate

Grammatical Functions: Subject – (Subj) the agent of the action; Predicate/Predicator – (Pred) the action or change in state; Complement – Comp  –  an element required to complete the subject and predicate; Adjunct – an element not required by the verb, a modifying word, phrase, clause; Supplement – a comment in the form of a word, phrase or clause that is loosely related to the central idea of the sentence.

Lexical Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun / pronoun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Det – determiners –  noun markers (e.g., articles, quantifiers, demonstratives, possessives); Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection; INF – infinitive: GER – gerund; Nonfinite: an infinitive or gerund clause

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Proverbs

curious cat
 

 

Read Context

Curiosity killed the cat. — Wanting to know too much can get a person into serious trouble.
Two wrongs don't make a right. — This is a warning to a person who wants revenge.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger. — When a person we love is away, we tend to love them more. (A proverb we say to people who spend too much time together.)

Too many cooks spoil the broth.  — We say this when it is better to have one person fully in charge of doing something (to avoid a situation in which everyone puts salt in the soup.)
A squeaking wheel gets oiled. — We tell this to a person who needs to keep on asking or complaining until the problem is properly fixed.

absence (N) – not being present, not being there)

broth (N) – soup

in charge of (verb phrase) – ;responsible for managing something

proverb (N) – a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought

get oiled (V) – has received oil to make something work

revenge (N) – something a person does in order to punish someone who has hurt or offended the person or loved ones

spoil (V) – ruin, make bad

tend (V) – be more likely,

squeak (N) – a high pitch sound made by a mouse or equipment that needs oil

 

 

 

 

Identify the subject in each proverb (saying) below.

  1. Select the word or words that make up the subject of the sentence (noun + modifiers)
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 1-5" button at the bottom.
1.
Curiosity killed the cat.






2.
Two wrongs don't make a right.








3.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger.   








4.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.






5.
A squeaking wheel gets oiled.   








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Proverbs (more)

a bird in the hand
 

Read the Context

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. – It's better to have a small real advantage than the possibility of a greater one.

Haste makes waste. – Hurrying causes a person to make mistakes.

A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. – literal meaning (exactly as each word reads)

A stitch in time saves nine. – A timely effort will prevent more work later.

Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer. – literal meaning

advantage (N) – benefit, good point, plus

client (N) – person who receives a service in a business.

dominate (V) – take control of something or someone

fool (N) – a stupid person, or a person who has done something stupid

haste (N) – the action of hurrying

in time (expr.) – before it is too late; at a time the desired action is still possible

lawyer (N) – attorney, someone whose job is to advise people about laws, write formal agreements, or represent people in court

literal (Adj) – each word has its own, original meaning  (opposite: expression)

stitch (N) – a short piece of thread that has been sewn into a piece of cloth, or the action of the thread going into and out of the cloth

wag (V) – move from side to side, especially the tail of a dog

 

 

 

 

Identify the predicate and complement in these proverbs (sayings).

  1. Select the word or words that make up the predicate and its modifiers [verb + object phrase + modifiers.]
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 6-10" button at the bottom.

 

6.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.





7.
Haste makes waste.  





8.
A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.





9.
A stitch in time saves nine.




10.
Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer. 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Saturday at the Movies

audience
 

 

Read the Context

— How is the movie so far?

— Well…

The girl behind me is throwing popcorn.

The guy wearing a blue shirt is chewing bubble gum.

The guy wearing glasses is kicking the side of my chair.

The guy to my left is feeling bored with the movie.

The curly-haired woman next to me is humming along with the movie.

A kid walking down the aisle of the theater is carrying a freshly-popped bag of popcorn.

A crazy woman standing in the aisle is dancing along with the people in the movie.

Another guy keeps making wise cracks during the love scenes.

Actually, the movie is not very good.

Watching the audience is more entertaining than watching the movie.

aisle (N) – a walkway between or along sections of seats in a theater, classroom, or the like.

chew (V) – crush with the teeth

hum (V) – to sing with closed lips, without saying words

wise cracks (expression) – jokes; making fun of something

 

 

 

 

Identify the function of the sentence part.

  1. Select the option that is the best description for the words in red.
  2. Read the feedback box to check your answer, or click the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom.

 

11.
The girl behind me is throwing popcorn.

noun
noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

12.
The guy wearing a blue shirt is chewing bubble gum.


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

13.
The guy wearing glasses is kicking the side of my chair.


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

14.
The guy to my left is feeling bored with the movie.



(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

15.
The curly-haired woman next to me is humming along with the movie. 


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

16.
A  kid walking down the aisle is carrying a freshly-popped bag of popcorn. 


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

17.
A crazy woman standing in the aisle is dancing along with the people in the movie. 


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

18.
Another guy keeps making wise cracks during the love scenes




(required by the verb)

19.
Actually, the movie is not very good.




(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)

20.
Watching the audience is more entertaining than the movie. 


noun

(required by the verb to complete its meaning)
(not required by the verb)