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The Object Complement in English Grammar

Object complements are defined as words, phrases, and clauses that directly follow and describe or complete the direct object. Object complements are grammatical constituents embedded in the predicate of a clause. Although noun phrases and adjective phrases most frequently function as the object complement of clauses, five grammatical forms can perform the grammatical function of object complement in English grammar:

  1. Noun phrases
  2. Adjective phrases
  3. Prepositional phrases
  4. Verb phrases
  5. Noun clauses

Noun Phrases as Object Complements

The first grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of object complement is the noun phrase. Noun phrases are defined as phrases formed by a noun or pronoun plus any determiners, modifiers, or complements. For example, the following italicized noun phrases function as object complements:

  • The American people have elected Barack Obama president.
  • The local children consider our elderly neighbor another grandmother.
  • My coworkers often call our boss an idiot.

Adjective Phrases as Object Complements

The second grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of object complement is the adjective phrase. Adjective phrases are defined as phrases formed by an adjective and any modifiers or complements. For example, the following italicized adjective phrases function as object complements:

  • Christians, Jews, and Muslims consider Jerusalem holy.
  • The evidence proved the accused innocent.
  • My husband and I painted our living room lime green.

Prepositional Phrases as Object Complements

The third grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of object complement is the prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases are defined as phrases formed by a preposition directly followed by a prepositional complement. For example, the following italicized prepositional phrases function as object complements:

  • The guidebook has announced the best place to swim along the north beach.
  • The Provost named the cleanest restrooms in the education building.
  • Students declare the best time of year during the summer.

Verb Phrases as Object Complements

The fourth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of object complement is the verb phrase in the form of present participles and infinitives. Verb phrases are defined as phrases formed by a verb and any modifiers, complements, particles, or infinitive markers. For example, the following italicized verb phrases function as object complements:

  • My supervisor considers his least favorite duty dealing with customers. (present participle)
  • The game show host will announce the final challenge scaling the rock wall. (present participle)
  • The teacher declared the extra credit homework to write a report. (infinitive)

Traditional grammars generally use the term gerund to refer to verb phrases in the form of present participles functioning as object complements.

Noun Clauses as Object Complements

The fifth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of object complement is the noun clause. Noun clauses are defined as subordinate clauses formed by a clause preceded by a subordinating conjunction. For example, the following italicized noun clauses function as object complements:

  • The judges will announce the winner whoever brought the red velvet cake.
  • Most critics consider one theme of the story what you wrote about in your final paragraph.
  • I declare the problem that you do not want to learn about grammar.

The five grammatical forms that can function as the object complement in the English language are noun phrases, adjective phrases, prepositional phrases, verb phrases, and noun clauses.

References

Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O’Dwyer, Bernard T. 2000. Modern English structures: Form, function, and position. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

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