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Objects vs. Complements — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 28, 2024
Objects are the focus of an action in a sentence, while complements complete or provide more details about the subject or object.
Objects vs. Complements — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Objects and Complements


Key Differences

Objects in grammar are nouns or pronouns that receive the action of the verb in a sentence. They answer the question "who?" or "what?" after a transitive verb. For example, in the sentence "She wrote a letter," "a letter" is the object. Complements, on the other hand, are words or groups of words that complete the meaning of a predicate in a sentence. They can provide more details about the subject (subject complements) or the object (object complements).
There are two types of objects: direct and indirect. The direct object is the immediate recipient of the action, while the indirect object is who or what the action is performed for. For instance, in "She gave him a gift," "a gift" is the direct object, and "him" is the indirect object. Complements include subject complements, which follow linking verbs and describe or rename the subject, and object complements, which follow and modify or refer to a direct object.
Objects are essential in the structure of a sentence as they often complete the action expressed by the verb. A sentence may sound incomplete without an object if the verb is transitive. Complements, while they add more detail, are not always necessary for a sentence to be complete but provide additional clarity or context.
The identification of objects and complements can depend on the sentence structure. Objects are usually found immediately after the verb, whereas complements can appear in various positions depending on their type. Subject complements typically follow linking verbs, and object complements follow the direct object.
In terms of function, objects mainly serve to receive an action or indicate to whom or for whom an action is done. Complements, however, serve to give more information about either the subject or the object, enhancing the overall meaning of the sentence.

Comparison Chart

Function in Sentence

Receive the action of the verb
Complete or provide details about subject/object


Direct and indirect objects
Subject and object complements

Role in Sentence Structure

Essential for completing action of verb
Provide additional clarity or context

Position in Sentence

Usually directly after the verb
Varying positions, often follow verbs or objects

Main Purpose

Indicate who or what is affected by the action
Enhance meaning by describing or renaming

Compare with Definitions


Can be direct or indirect in nature.
In He gave her a rose, a rose is the direct object, and her is the indirect object.


Follows linking verbs to describe or rename.
In The flowers smell fragrant, fragrant is the complement describing the flowers.


Receives the action of a verb in a sentence.
In She reads the book, the book is the object.


Enhances sentence meaning but not always necessary.
In Your suggestion is helpful, helpful is the complement adding extra detail.


Answers "who?" or "what?" after a verb.
In They watched the movie, the movie is the object answering what?


Provides additional details in a sentence.
In He seems happy, happy is the complement giving more information about he.


Essential in sentences with transitive verbs.
In She enjoys music, music is the object necessary for completing the sentence.


Completes the meaning of a predicate.
In The sky is blue, blue is the complement describing the sky.


Indicates who or what is affected by the action.
In The teacher praised the students, the students is the object affected by the praising.


Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection
A sauce that is a fine complement to fish.


A specific, individual, material entity, especially one that is not living or not sentient.


The quantity or number needed to make up a whole
Shelves with a full complement of books.


A focus of attention, feeling, thought, or action
A product that was so bad it became an object of derision.


The full crew of personnel required to run a ship.


A limiting factor that must be considered
Since money is no object, let's eat at that fancy place.


Either of two parts that complete the whole or mutually complete each other.


The purpose, aim, or goal of a specific action or effort
The object of the game.


An angle related to another so that the sum of their measures is 90°.


A noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that receives or is affected by the action of a verb within a sentence.


(Grammar) A word or words used to complete a predicate construction, especially the object or indirect object of a verb, for example, the phrase to eat ice cream in We like to eat ice cream.


A noun or substantive governed by a preposition and typically following it.


(Music) An interval that completes an octave when added to a given interval.


(Philosophy) Something intelligible to or perceptible by the mind.


(Immunology) A complex system of proteins found in blood plasma that are sequentially activated and play various roles in the immune response, including lysing bacterial cell membranes, making pathogens more susceptible to phagocytes, and recruiting inflammatory cells to sites of infection or injury. Also called alexin.


A discrete item than can be selected and maneuvered, such as an onscreen graphic.


Mathematics & Logic For a universal set, the set of all elements in the set that are not in a specified subset.


In object-oriented programming, a structure that combines data and the procedures necessary to operate on that data.


A complementary color.


To present a dissenting or opposing argument; raise an objection
Objected to the testimony of the witness.


To serve as a complement to
Roses in a silver bowl complement the handsome cherry table.


To be averse to or express disapproval of something
Objects to modern materialism.


Plural of complement


To put forward in or as a reason for opposition; offer as criticism
They objected that discipline was lacking.


Infl of complement


Plural of object


Includes subject and object complements.
In We elected her president, president is the object complement renaming her.


Infl of object

Common Curiosities

Can a sentence have both an object and a complement?

Yes, some sentences can have both.

What is an object in grammar?

It's a noun or pronoun in a sentence that receives the action of the verb.

What is a complement in grammar?

It's a word or group of words that complete the meaning of a predicate.

What's an example of an indirect object?

In "He sends her a letter," "her" is the indirect object.

What's the difference between an object complement and a subject complement?

Object complements follow and modify the direct object, while subject complements follow linking verbs and modify the subject.

What's an example of a direct object?

In "She holds the phone," "the phone" is the direct object.

How do you identify a complement in a sentence?

It typically follows the verb and provides more detail about the subject or object.

What's an example of a subject complement?

In "The cat is sleepy," "sleepy" is a subject complement.

Are objects always necessary in a sentence?

They are necessary in sentences with transitive verbs.

Can a complement be a phrase?

Yes, complements can be single words or phrases.

Can objects be omitted from a sentence?

In sentences with intransitive verbs, objects can be omitted.

What role do complements play in a sentence?

They add meaning or detail to the subject or object.

Can a sentence have multiple objects?

Yes, particularly if it contains both a direct and an indirect object.

Do all verbs require an object?

No, only transitive verbs require an object.

Are complements essential for a sentence to be complete?

Not always, but they provide important additional information.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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