Grammar for Authors: Objects and Complements

Finally, it’s February! Am I the only one who felt like January was a year in and of itself? It certainly feels like it’s been 2019 for a long time.

Today we continue our foray into parts of sentences, which we began last month in an introduction to subjects and predicates. As a simple review: the subject is the noun that performs a verb in the sentence; the predicate is nearly everything else.

That means that “I am” is technically a sentence: It has a subject and a predicate.

(Sidenote: WordPress recently changed the back side of this website, and I haven’t yet figured out how to change the color of specific words in a block of text. Until I do, we’ll improvise with examples. Sorry!)

Sometimes, though, a sentence has more than just a subject and a verb. Sometimes we want to talk about specific parts of the predicate, because they have a huge impact on punctuation and meaning.

General Disclaimer: While I love grammar, I’m also new at learning it. I will do my best to explain things correctly. If you find that I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented something, please share that in the comments. Please do so kindly, though. The goal of this is for all of us to learn and become better writers, and people learn better from kindness than troll-ness. Thank you!

I’ll be the first to admit that today’s topic has been a subject of much perplexity to me. I’m particularly indebted to E.B. Dawson for walking me through the concepts. Even more than usual, though, if you know more about this, please help us all out by sharing your wonderful expertise in the comments!

We’ll start off with this chart from WriteAtHome:

Sentence Complements

A sentence doesn’t just a subject and a verb; it also needs to be a complete thought. If the subject and verb aren’t complete on their own, we need to add what is called a sentence complement.

Get it? Because the complement completes the sentence?

Okay, I’ll stick to the grammar and leave off of the attempts at humor.

Something to keep in mind: The kinds of words we’re going to talk about in this sentence complements section are only considered complements IF THEY ARE NECESSARY TO COMPLETE A SENTENCE’S IDEA. Sometimes, they are parts of a sentence without being necessary for a complete idea. In those cases, we still call them by the same name, but they are not considered complements.

For example:

  • I had eggs. — “Eggs” is a complement because the sentence isn’t complete without it. “Eggs” is also a direct object.
  • I ate eggs. — “Eggs” is still a direct object. However, “eggs” is not a complement, because “I ate” is a complete idea without “eggs.”

Direct Objects

Definition: Direct objects are nouns that are directly acted on by the verb. They are a form of sentence complement.

The subject does the verb, the direct object has the verb done to it.

To figure out the direct object, you can ask yourself a question in this format: “[subject] [verb] what or whom?”

  • I threw what?
  • The Doctor lost what?
  • The Shieldmaiden mad what?

Indirect Object

Definition: Indirect objects tell us to whom or for whom the verb is done.

As E.B. Dawson pointed out to me, indirect objects can be written as the object of the preposition–except that the preposition is left out of the sentence. Ask yourself if it would technically make sense to add “to” or “for” in front of the word in question. If so, then it’s most likely the indirect object.

I think it’s worth pointing out that the majority of “dad jokes” come from intentionally mistaking the indirect object for a direct object–or taking a predicate adjective as a predicate nominative, but more on that farther down.

Objects of Prepositions

Definition: The object of a preposition completes the preposition’s meaning.

To review prepositions, check out this earlier post.

Prepositions nearly always need–absolutely need–a noun to complete their meaning. If you go around saying things like, “I enjoy eating with,” or “I read the book before,” you will probably end up frustrating people, who want to know the rest of your idea. “I enjoy eating with chopsticks” or “I enjoy eating with Hannah” would work. In both of those cases, the bolded word is the object of the preposition.

Object Complement

Definition: Object complements, also known as objective complements, come after the direct object and rename or modify it. They can be nouns, pronouns, adjectives, or sometimes phrases.

That brings us to the end of sentence complements. I did promise you subject complements, though, so here we go:

Subject Complements

Predicate Nominatives

Definition: Predicate nominatives occur when the noun after the verb has the same identity as the noun acting as subject.

In other words, if the subject and object are the same thing, they are predicate nominatives.

We introduce ourselves using predicate nominatives:

  • I am Beth.
  • My name is Ms. Wangler

Predicate nominatives can only complete linking verbs.

Predicate Adjectives

Definition: Adjectives that follow a linking verb and modify the subject

In this way, predicate adjectives are very similar to predicate nominatives. The key difference is that predicate nominatives are nouns, while predicate adjectives are adjectives.

*takes a deep breath *

Whew, we made it. If you found this helpful, go ahead and like the post :) If you have questions (I know I would), please ask them in the comments. If you have corrections, please also share them in the comments!

Looking ahead to the rest of February:

  • The second “Story Time with Beth” will happen February 16th at 11 am. Like before, it’ll be livestreamed on Instagam, then posted to Youtube.
  • Child of the Kaites is going to be featured on Lorehaven’s book club from February 27-March 2! I’m planning some exciting things for then, so keep your eyes open :)

Happy February!

4 thoughts on “Grammar for Authors: Objects and Complements

  1. How difficult is it gonna be for every single of us if we keep studying grammar rules like that ?
    Extremely because compliments to my sense is just a word that a speaker or writer can’t miss as its his or her” intended” meaning so when i focus a lot on understanding how each of this definition works . I won’t be able to learn language quickly quickly yes its imp to know where to place objects and the lesson you should be teaching more is about intransitivie verbs because verbs keep changing its behaviour it may have prepositional phrases as complements with its object .

    1. Thank you for your suggestions! I will consider them. I agree that this isn’t the best way to learn a language.

      My goal in these posts is to help English-writing authors learn more about the finer points of grammar that we often aren’t taught well in school. There is still a lot to explore, but I am on hiatus this year. I’ll be taking a fresh look when I can return to regular posting, and I will keep your ideas in mind.

      Best wishes in your learning!

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