Defining Object Complements

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In English grammar, an object complement is a word or phrase (usually a noun, pronoun, or adjective) that comes after a direct object and renames, describes, or locates it. Also called an objective complement or an object(ive) predicate.

"Generally," notes Bryan Garner, "a verb expressing a perception, judgment, or change can allow its direct object to take an object complement" (Garner's Modern American Usage, 2009).

These verbs include call, like, leave, keep, want, find, consider, declare, prefer, make, paint, name, think, get, send, turn, vote, and elect.

Examples and Observations of Object Complements

  • Meredith Hall
    I paint the plaster walls white, except for the little nook under the sloping roof where my bed fits just perfectly. There, I paint the walls and sloping ceiling black.
  • Mark Twain
    The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too.
  • Stephen Harrigan
    In some places the process was so intense that clouds of expelled algae turned the water brown and turbid.
  • Anita Rau Badami
    Bheema joined Gandhi in his struggle for India's independence and called his father a traitor.
  • Meta K. Townsend
    While [Patricia Harris] was working at Howard, President John F. Kennedy appointed her chairperson of the National Women's Committee for Civil Rights.

Object Complements and Adverbs

  • Barbara Goldstein, Jack Waugh, and Karen Linsky
    Be careful not to confuse sentences that look alike. Consider these two sentences:
    He called the man a liar.
    He called the man yesterday.
    Man is the direct object in both sentences. In the first sentence, liar renames the man, so it is the object complement. In the second sentence, yesterday is an adverb that tells when he called the man. This sentence does not contain an object complement.

    Verbs With Direct Objects and Object Complements

    • Michael Pearce
      Object complements characterize or specify the referent of the direct object. Only a few verbs in English (known as complex transitive verbs) can take a direct object and an object complement. In the following examples, the direct object is [in bold] and the object complements are [italicized]: I've painted the picture black; She called me a liar. Object complements are typically adjective phrases and noun phrases. Occasionally, wh-clauses function as object complements: Our childhood experiences have made us what we are.

      Functions of Object Complements

      • Laurel J. Brinton and Donna M. Brinton
        The object complement characterizes the object in the same way as the subject complement characterizes the subject: it identifies, describes, or locates the object (as in We chose Bill as group leader, We consider him a fool, She laid the baby in the crib), expressing either its current state or resulting state (as in They found him in the kitchen vs She made him angry). It is not possible to delete the object complement without either radically changing the meaning of the sentence (e.g. She called him an idiotShe called him) or making the sentence ungrammatical (e.g. He locked his keys in his office ⇒ *He locked his keys). Note that BE or some other copula verb can often be inserted between the direct object and the object complement (e.g. I consider him to be a fool, We chose Bill to be group leader, They found him to be in the kitchen).

      Agreement With Object Complements

      • Angela Downing and Phillip Locke
        There is typically number agreement between the Direct Object and the Nominal Group realising the Object Complement, as in:
        Circumstances have made the brothers enemies
        But there are occasional exceptions, [notably with] expressions of size, shape, colour, height, etc. . . .:
        You haven't made the sleeves the same length.