Nouns perform different functions in a sentence. These are:
- Subject of a Verb
- Object of a Verb
- Complement of a Verb (Subject and Object Complements)
- Object of a Preposition
- An appositive
Subject of a Verb
The subject of the sentence is a noun. It performs or does the verb’s action or state of being.
- Paul sipped the juice. (the performer of the action is Paul)
- The mountains looked rocky. (what is in a state of being are “The mountains.”
Grammatical objects of verbs have three grammatical roles: the direct object of the verb, the indirect object of the verb, or the object of a preposition.
Object of a Verb
Direct Object of a Verb
Nouns act as direct objects when indicating whom or what receives the verb’s action. It typically comes after an action verb.
- Paul gave her the juice. (“the juice” receives the action of the verb “sipped”).
- The man sent the child the toy. (“the toy” is the recipient of the verb’s action “sent”).
Note that the verb in this function must be an action verb.
Indirect Object of a Verb
Nouns as indirect objects of verbs refer to the person or thing receiving the action. These, like direct objects, need action verbs. As the name implies, the indirect verb’s action.
- Stella gave her some bags. (Here, “her” answers whom Stella gave some bags, so it is the indirect object)
- Fred bought Dan a car. (“Dan” is the indirect object because addresses whom Fred bought a car)
Complement of a Verb
A complement is a word, clause or phrase expressing the subject or object of the sentence. Complements usually come after linking verbs displaying connection instead of action.
A subject complement functions as a noun, adjective, single word or a group of words. It comes after a verb of being and addresses the questions “Who?” or “What?”. A noun is also a complement when it gives additional information about the subject.
- The man is a teacher.
- Pharaoh was the king of Egypt.
As seen above, the verbs “is” and “was” are state-of-being verbs.
There are two types of subject complements – Predicate Nominative and Predicate Adjective.
A predicate nominative, also known as a predicate noun, is a noun or pronoun that completes a linking verb and gives the subject of the verb a new name. It usually appears after linking verbs. It explains more about the subject.
- Peter is her brother. (“Peter” is the subject, and “her brother” is the predicate nominative)
- The location was the cave. “The location” is the subject, and “the cave” is the predicate nominative)
Note that the verb must be linking.
Predicate adjective comes after the noun they’re modifying. It gives more information about the subject of the sentence without renaming it. Like a predicate nominative, the adjective must come after a linking verb.
- The house seems old. (“The house” is the subject and “old” is the predicate adjective)
- The car is rusty. (“The car” is the subject and “rusty” is the predicate adjective)
Difference between Subject Complements and Objects of Verbs
Subject complements appear after subjects like objects. But the differences are as follows:
-Objects of Verbs use action verbs. The subject performs something dynamic or active, and the object receives the verb’s action. It responds to the question “who” or “what” about the verb.
- The man flogged the child. (“the child” is the object. It responds to “who” or “what” is being flogged. Also, it follows an action verb and receives the action of the verb “flogged”).
-Subject complements use linking verbs. The verbs connect the subject to a subject complement which provides additional information about that subject.
- Example: The house seems old.
- Here, “the house” is the sentence’s subject. “seems” is a linking verb to the adjective “old,” giving more information about the house.
The object complement, typically a noun, pronoun, or adjective, appears after a direct object to modify the direct object. In determining this, ensure the verb’s action is on the object and the complement is not describing the subject.
- They saw the lady coming. (Here, “coming” describes the indirect object “lady”; therefore, it is the object complement)
- He met the tap running. (Also, “running” explains the object “tap”; making it the object complement)
Object of a Preposition
The noun that exists after a preposition is the object of the preposition.
- They brought the clothes from the wardrobe. (“the wardrobe” comes after the preposition “from”, therefore, it is the object of the preposition)
- He bought food for the staff. (“the staff occurs after the preposition “for” making it the object of the preposition)
Nouns function as appositives. The appositive renames another noun in the sentence. It comes immediately after another noun and is typically separate from the sentence with a comma.
- John, the electrician, has gone home. (“the electrician” describes “John”)
- The old lady, Mrs Diana, cannot cross the road alone. (“The old lady” explains “Mrs Diana”)