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Using Adjectives and Adjective Phrases as Subject Complements

According to traditional grammars, adjectives as words that modify or describe nouns. An adjective phrase is a phrase that consists of an adjective functioning as the head of the phrase plus any modifiers or complements.

In grammar, a subject complement is a word, phrase, or clause that follows a copular, or linking, verb and describes the subject of a clause. Adjectives and adjective phrases often function as subject complements in English. An adjective that performs the grammatical function of subject complement is also called a predicate adjective. Examples of adjectives and adjective phrases as subject complements include the following:

  • Roses are red. (adjective)
  • Violets are blue. (adjective)
  • The patient appears ill. (adjective)
  • My soup tastes peppery. (adjective)
  • Those children are quite rowdy. (adjective phrase)
  • That hand lotion is too sticky. (adjective phrase)
  • Some men are fond of football. (adjective phrase)
  • Your daughter seems much too shy to try out. (adjective phrase)


Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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