Complex Transitive Verb Definition and Examples

complex transitive
In this sentence, named functions as a complex transitive. (Getty Images)

In English grammar, a complex transitive is a verb that requires both a direct object and another object or an object complement.

In a complex-transitive construction, the object complement identifies a quality or attribute pertaining to the direct object.

Complex transitive verbs in English include believe, consider, declare, elect, find, judge, keep, know, label, make, name, presume, pronounce, prove, rate, regard, and think.

Note that verbs often belong to more than one category. For example, made can function as a complex transitive (as in "Her thoughtless remarks made him unhappy") and also as an ordinary transitive verb ("She made a promise").

The adjective or noun phrase that qualifies or renames the object that appears before it is sometimes called an object predicate or object predicative.

Examples

  • During the night leprechauns painted the barn green.
  • The judge declared the man guilty on two counts.
  • Jack found his brother's behavior deplorable.
  • Elena Kagan clerked for Thurgood Marshall and has long considered him a hero.
  • When the Congress unanimously elected George Washington president, he accepted reluctantly.
  • "This man had made her happy and made her miserable, but he was dependable." (Allison Brennan, Compulsion. Minotaur Books, 2015)
  • "Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence." (Edgar Allan Poe, "Eleonora," 1842)
  • "We called him Mother Superior on account of the length of his habit." (Mark "Rent-boy" Renton, Trainspotting, 1996)

Meaning in Transitives and Complex Transitives

"[M]any of the verbs that appear in complex transitive clauses will also appear in transitive clauses without an object complement; but when they do, there is a change of meaning.

Think about the different meanings of the verb in the following pairs of sentences:

(49a) Transitive: Ahmed found the professor.
(49b) Complex transitive: Ahmed found the professor marvelous!
(49c) Transitive: Hojin considered the matter.
(49d) Complex transitive: Hojin considered the matter a waste of time."

(Martin J. Endley, Linguistic Perspectives on English Grammar: A Guide for EFL Teachers. IAP, 2010)

The Relationship Between the Two Complements of a Complex Transitive

"A complex transitive verb has two complements, an argument NP [noun phrase] direct object and either a predicate NP or an AP [adjective phrase].

(5a) We considered Sam [direct object] our best friend [predicate noun phrase].
(5b) They elected Mrs. Jones [direct object] president of the PTA [predicate noun phrase].

. . . There is a special relationship between the two complements of a complex transitive verb. The predicate NP or AP says something about or describes the direct object, just as the predicate NP that is a complement of a linking verb describes the subject. The predicate NP or AP is either currently true of the direct object or comes to be true of the direct object as a result of the action of the verb. Part of the meaning conveyed by (5a), for example, is that Sam is our best friend.

Part of the meaning conveyed by (5b), for example, is that Mrs. Jones comes to be president as a result of the action named by the verb. Thus, complex transitive verbs, like linking verbs, are either current or resulting verbs." (Dee Ann Holisky, Notes on Grammar. Orchises, 1997)

Active and Passive

"As is the case with any type of object, the DO [direct object] in complex-transitive complementation can also be passivised. An interesting fact is that the co-reference between the OC [object complement] and the DO survives passivisation.

59. They made him president.
60. He was made president.

Note, however, that it is the direct object and not the object complement that can passivise!

61. They made him president.
62. *President was made him."

(Eva Duran Eppler and Gabriel Ozón, English Words and Sentences: An Introduction.

Cambridge University Press, 2013)