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Using Verbs and Verb Phrases as Subject Complements

Using Verbs and Verb Phrases as Subject Complements

Verbs are traditionally defined as “words that denote an action or a state of being.” A verb phrase is a grammatical structure that consists of a verb that functions as the verb phrase head plus any auxiliary verbs, particles, modifiers, complements, and objects.

In grammar, a subject complement is a word, phrase, or clause that follows a copular or linking verb and refers back to modify, describe, or complete the grammatical subject of the clause. Verb phrases in the form of present participles and infinitives sometimes function as subject complements in English. Some grammars refer to present participles that perform nominal functions as gerunds. Examples of verbs and verb phrases as subject complements include the following:

  • One of my favorite pastimes is reading. (present participle)
  • His duties are answering the phone and helping customers. (present participle)
  • Her favorite hobbies are listening to classical music and looking up new artists. (present participle)
  • His least favorite task is emptying the garbage cans. (present participle)
  • My college job was to reshelve library books. (infinitive)
  • Your only responsibility this weekend is to shut the windows before the storm. (infinitive)
  • My daily task is to unlock the doors at opening. (infinitive)
  • Our calling is to bring joy to the world. (infinitive)

Present Participle as Subject Complement

Present Participle as Subject Complement Grammar Tree

Infinitive as Subject Complement

Infinitive as Subject Complement Grammar Tree


Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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