When it comes to grammar, some concepts are more slippery than others. A lot of times, that slipperiness comes from the fact that a word or a group of words is doing a temporary job based on a particular situation. This is true of object complements. Although they are usually ordinary nouns and adjectives, it’s only when those nouns and adjectives are renaming or describing the direct object of a transitive verb—in a sentence that wouldn’t make sense without them—that they’re performing the role of object complement.
The fact is, though, we naturally use object complements all the time when talking and writing. With the information and examples we lay out in this guide, identifying them will be a snap.
What is an object complement?
An object complement is a word or group of words that appears in the predicate of a sentence and describes or renames the direct object of the verb in a way that is essential to completing the meaning of the sentence. Most of the time they are nouns, adjectives, or noun or adjective phrases. Here are some examples, with the direct object underlined and the object complement in bold:
- Call me paranoid, but I’m pretty sure someone is watching us.
- We made the room extra cozy for our guests.
- The housing association named Max president for the coming year.
If we remove the object complements from the above sentences, we can see how they are essential to the meanings of the sentences they appear in; the resulting sentences may make sense (sort of), but the meaning is entirely changed:
- Call me, but I’m pretty sure someone is watching us.
- We made the room for our guests.
- The housing association named Max for the coming year.
The object complement is one of two kinds of grammatical complement, along with the subject complement, which appears after a linking verb and identifies or describes the subject of the sentence:
Dinner parties at Maeve and Killian’s apartment are boisterous and entertaining.
Verbs used with object complements
The verb of a sentence with an object complement will always be transitive, since object complements describe direct objects and transitive verbs are the ones that have direct objects. But not all transitive verbs go with object complements; the ones that do often describe actions that cause a change in something, express something’s current state, or name something, including:
Here are a few examples of sentences that use these kinds of verbs, direct objects, and object complements:
- Hearing this song always makes me happy.
- Pia accidentally got the clean floors muddy.
- The teammates call their coach’s dog their unofficial mascot.
- We’ll paint the house blue.
- The committee appointed Jacques chair of the program.
Why are object complements important?
In English, the order of words in a sentence, or syntax, tells us how to understand the sentence. As elaborate as English sentences can get, there are surprisingly few syntax patterns they follow, and object complements are an indispensable part of one of those few: subject + verb + direct object + object complement. How often do you want to express how someone or something is affecting or thinking about, or talking about someone or something else? A lot, right? That’s about how often you need object complements.
That said, there are two other patterns that also involve direct objects interacting with another element in the predicate, so let’s get into how to tell them apart.
Object complements vs. indirect objects
Another common sentence pattern is subject + verb + indirect object + direct object. Here’s an example:
Muaz showed us his photography.
Muaz is the subject, showed is the verb, and photography is the direct object. The indirect object—the recipient of the direct object by way of the action of the verb—is the pronoun us. Now compare that to this sentence using an object complement:
Muaz considers photography his main art form.
Here, the subject and the direct object haven’t changed, but the verb considers and the noun phrase his main art form, clue us in that this is about rounding out our understanding of what Muaz’s photography is rather than describing how he shares it with others.
An indirect object typically receives a direct object, while an object complement describes or names it.
Object complements vs. predicate adverbs
The third kind of direct object sentence to look out for follows this pattern: subject + verb + direct object + adverb.
- Muaz composes his photography beautifully.
- Muaz develops his photography in a darkroom.
These sentences are still about Muaz and his photography, but the presence of an adverb or adverb phrase in the predicate—beautifully, in a darkroom—tells us that now we’re talking about how and where Muaz carries out the actions that go into the creation of his photography, rather than how he defines it. Adverbs modify verbs; object complements describe or name direct objects.
More object complement examples
Here are a few more sentences that show the subject + verb + direct object + object complement syntax:
- I find the food at that restaurant inconsistent in quality.
- Paz’s face turned the color of a tomato when she realized her mistake.
- I now pronounce you married.
- The kids all got their ears pierced on the same day.
- Adam’s sore ankle made his subway commute an ordeal.
Object complement FAQs
What is an object complement?
An object complement is a word or group of words that describes or renames the direct object of the verb in a way that is essential to complete the meaning of the sentence.
What parts of speech can an object complement be?
Most of the time, object complements are nouns, adjectives, or noun or adjective phrases.
What verbs are commonly used with object complements?
Transitive verbs that describe actions that cause a change in something, express something’s current state, or name something are often used with object complements. Some common examples include make, turn, get, call, name, paint, find, deem, pronounce, consider, appoint, and elect.
How is an object complement different from an indirect object and a predicate adverb?
Although object complements, indirect objects, and predicate adverbs all appear in the predicate of sentences with a subject, transitive verb, and direct object, they perform different roles. An indirect object receives the direct object. An object complement describes or names the direct object. A predicate adverb modifies the verb.