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The Predicate Nominative in English Grammar

Predicate nominatives, or predicate nouns, are defined as nominal grammatical forms that perform the grammatical function of subject complement. Subject complements are words, phrases, and clauses that follow a copular, or linking, verb and refer back to modify, describe, or complete the grammatical subject of the clause. Subject complements are grammatical constituents embedded in the predicate of a clause. The two grammatical forms that can function as predicate nominatives are:

  1. Noun phrases
  2. Noun clauses

Noun Phrases as Predicate Nominatives

The first grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of predicate nominative is the noun phrase. Noun phrases are defined as phrases that consist of a noun or pronoun plus any determinatives, modifiers, or complements. For example, the following italicized noun phrases function as predicate nominative:

  • My daughter’s favorite animals are ducks. (noun)
  • His sisters-in-law became veterinarians last year. (noun)
  • This is she. (pronoun)
  • The mysterious knock at the door was nobody. (pronoun)
  • Our professor seems a bore. (noun phrase)
  • I am the happiest girl in the whole USA. (noun phrase)
  • The mother-to-be is my sister-in-law’s best friend. (noun phrase)
  • The recipient of the flowers is nobody special. (noun phrase)

Noun Clauses as Predicate Nominatives

The second grammatical form that performs the grammatical function of predicate nominative is the noun clause. Noun clauses are defined as subordinate clauses that consist of a clause preceded by a subordinating conjunction and that perform nominal functions. For example, the following italicized noun clauses function as predicate nominative:

  • The problem is that you do not seem to care about the situation.
  • The winner was whoever arrived at the finish line first.
  • Dinner can be whatever you want to fix from the freezer.
  • The mystery is what she wants for Christmas from us.
  • The question was whether the rumor was true or not.
  • My least favorite TV show remains whatever you were watching last night.

The two grammatical forms that can function as the predicate nominative in the English language are noun phrases and noun clauses.

References

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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