Verb complement in English

This lesson will help you understand what a verb complement in English is, how to identify it in a sentence, and what role it plays.

What is a verb complement?

Verb complement definition: a verb complement is usually an object that comes after a verb and completes its meaning. Without the verb complement, the sentence stops giving the same meaning and looks incomplete.

Let’s study some examples to see what a verb complement is and how it functions in a sentence.

I want.

When you read this sentence, you feel something needs to come after the verb ‘want’. It’s important to talk about what you want. Without its object (complement), the sentence looks incomplete.

Corrections (with verb complements):

  • I want to learn from you.
  • I want some food.
  • I want skilled employees.
  • I want a lot of money.

Now, after adding the object of the verb ‘want’, the sentence makes sense. The object here is completing the meaning of the verb. 

Verb complement infographic
Verb complement infographic

More examples of verb complements:

  • Let’s pursue this course.

You just can’t pursue. You need something to pursue. Without the complement (object) of the verb ‘pursue’, the sentence doesn’t make complete sense. Here, the object ‘this course’ is a complement to the verb and completes the meaning of the verb.

  • I hope that you win this competition.

Here, the noun clause coming after the verb ‘hope’ is its complement. You don’t just hope; you hope something. Here, the noun clause is the verb’s complement. Without the complement, the sentence (I hope) looks incomplete.

  • We enjoyed watching this show.

You enjoy something. You need something to enjoy. This verb is incomplete without it. Here, ‘watching this show’ (gerund phrase) is the complement to the verb ‘enjoy’. Try reading it without the complement: we enjoyed. It doesn’t look complete, does it?

  • Do you mind switching our seats?

‘To mind’ means to dislike. You just can’t mind; you mind something. There has to be something that you mind. I can mind your behavior, living with you, your touching me, someone living in my house, and so on. But I can’t just mind.

Types of verb complements

There are two types of verb complements:

  1. Direct object
  2. Indirect object

Direct object

A direct object of a verb is someone or something that directly receives the action. Asking ‘what’ or whom’ to the verb gives you the direct object.

Ex I love Jon. (Love whom = Jon (DO))

The sentence does not make sense or looks incomplete without the object. The object is a complement to the verb.

More examples:

  • You can’t beat us in the match. 
  • We have food for you.
  • I am watching a horror movie.
  • Max beat Conor in the finals.
  • Do you mind passing me that bottle?

Imagine these sentences without the verb complements (direct objects). They don’t make much sense without them.

Indirect object

An indirect object is usually a person for whom an action is done. The indirect object receives the action. We can find it by asking ‘whom’ to the verb.

An indirect object is always used with a direct object. It can’t be used in a sentence if the direct object is not there.

Ex She gave Jonas a beautiful car.

Direct object = a beautiful car (gave what?)
Indirect object = Jonas (gave it to whom?)

Try imagining the sentence (She gave) without the objects. The sentence doesn’t make sense without the objects working as the complement to the verb.

More examples:

  • I will give him the money in some time.
  • Rahul taught us Money Management last week.
  • Could you pass Jon this book?
  • I will show your parents what you do here.
  • Don’t tell my friends anything.

What can be a complement to the verb?

A verb complement as its object can be the following things:

  • Noun or noun phrase
  • Pronoun
  • Gerund or gerunds phrase
  • Infinitive or infinitive phrase
  • Noun clause

1. Noun or noun phrase

A noun or a noun phrase often works as the object of a verb. Here are some examples:

  • Some of us are training kids to be fighters. 
  • I don’t have money to spend.
  • They killed an innocent dog.
  • The teacher punished all the students.

2. Pronoun

A pronoun can also be an object of the verb. Here are some examples:

  • I have never seen him.
  • Nobody has touched you inappropriately.
  • Give me something for the program.
  • Your father hates us.

3. Gerund or Gerund phrase

A gerund or a gerund phrase can also receive the main verb directly. Here are some examples:

  • My friend Monu loves playing with kids.
  • We regret asking you for help.
  • We would prefer sitting at the last table.
  • Kids love playing.

4. Infinitive or infinitive phrase

An infinitive can also be an object of a verb. You can use it with all action verbs; there are some verbs that can be used only with infinitives. 

Click here to know the list of verbs followed by infinitives.

Examples:

  • I like to sing sometimes.
  • Your friends want to come to my party.
  • I wish to see you again.
  • We are planning to work with you.

Noun clause

A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions as a noun. It can also act as the object of a verb. Here are some examples:

  • I know that you want me to lose.
  • Nobody could imagine that you would lose the fight in the first round.
  • I loved what you did at the party.
  • We all want to know when you are coming back again.

Practice set!

Let’s do a practice set to see if we have understood the topic.

Below are some sentences. Read them carefully and see if they are incomplete and miss verb complements. If they do, complete the sentences using the complement of the verb.

Examples:

  • We are staying.
  • She never said.
  • After the match, they told.
  • I hate.
  • We all had.

Subject complement vs Verb complement

Some people confuse the subject complement with a verb complement. This happens as a subject complement also comes after a verb.

But the key difference between them is that a subject complement comes after a linking verb, and a verb complement comes after an action verb or a stative verb that doesn’t act as a linking verb too.

Subject complement examples:

  • These buildings are very old.
  • Rahul was a coder at an MNC.
  • She is my younger sister.
  • You have been extremely supportive throughout my journey.

A subject complement either works as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, it renames the subject and is called a predicate nominative. And as an adjective, it modifies the subject and is called a predicate adjective.

Verb complement examples:

  • Rahul does not like Chinese food.
  • She was living in Canada.
  • You have finished my food.

Practice set!

Study the following examples and identify subject complements and verb complements:

  1. You looked incredibly good.
  2. I was looking in the mirror.
  3. I don’t mind working with Riya.
  4. Monice seem happy right now.
  5. Don’t put icecube in my drink.
  6. You are a great man.
  7. I have been very fortunate to know you.
  8. You can’t afford this car.
  9. I will look into the matter.
  10. Don’t take off your clothes.

Answers:

  1. Subject complement (incredibly good)
  2. Verb complement (in the mirror)
  3. Verb complement (working with Riya)
  4. Subject complement (happy)
  5. Verb complement (in my drink)
  6. Subject complement (a great man)
  7. Subject complement (very fortunate)
  8. Verb complement (this car)
  9. Verb complement (into, the matter)
  10. Verb complement (off, your clothes)

Hope you enjoyed the post and mastered it. Feel free to share your questions/doubts in the comment section. Do share the post with your people.

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