All terms

What is a complement?

A word or phrase used to complete the meaning of another word or phrase in a sentence.

Complementing Your Writing: Enhancing Your Sentences with the Right Complement

A complement is a word or phrase that is used to complete the sense of another element within a sentence.

When writing creatively, it is essential to have a strong grasp on the use of complements. A complement can either be a noun or adjective that complements the subject of a sentence, or a verb that complements the object. Employing the right complement can drastically improve the clarity and richness of your writing, as it can add additional information or clarify the intended meaning.

One example of using a noun complement is as follows: “She is a gifted musician.” In this sentence, the noun complement “musician” completes and enhances the subject “she”, by adding more detail to who she is.

An example using an adjective complement can be seen in the sentence: “He was seen as brave by his peers.” Here, the adjective complement “brave” modifies the subject pronoun “he”.

Complementing Your Literary Experience: Seeing the Use of Complements in Action

Complements can be seen as enhancing and amplifying literary work, by adding nuances in meaning, greater emphasis, and other descriptive elements to the language.

Example from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In the first sentence of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses a noun phrase as the complement to modify the subject of the sentence: “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”

Example from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses an adjective complement to underscore the theme of his novel, exemplified in the following sentence: “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that green light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.”