Summary question

  • Is there a formal name for the entire portion of a sentence that is connected to the copula?"
  • Is it "complement"?


Be verb can be followed by various things: a noun (He is blue.), a be verb can be followed by a verb (Who is running?), etc. But is what follows the be verb always a "complement", even if it is more than one word (e.g., is the emboldened all part of the complement in the following sentence: "They are happily distance running in the beautiful park.")?

Perhaps I should be asking: 'could a predicate phrase--the part of a sentence that is a predicate--also be called a complement phrase--the part of a sentence that is a complement'? I'm wondering because a "complement phrase" would seem to be more specific to be verbs?

Additionally, how about this list:

Possible followings

to be/to have been +:

  • nothing.
  • gerund(s) (-ing).
  • past-participle(s) (-ed).
  • either of the above two + object(s).
  • noun(s)/noun phrase(s).
  • adjective.
  • 0-valency prepositions.
  • combinations of the above two.
  • any of the above with adverbs (*except only adverbs) and/or prepositions.

to be/to have been (not followed by) !+:

  • simple past verb(s).
  • verb root(s).
  • adverb(s) (*unless preceded by commas).
  • one-or-more-valency prepositions.
  • conjunctions.
  • interjections (*except onomatopoeia).


Software, education.

  • 1
    I am an ELU user (noun) and I'm trying (verb) to be helpful (adjective), but I can't see what you're getting at. And I'm not sure the complement clause categorisation system is meaningfully compatible with that of predicate phrases. Which may both have various different definitions, so perhaps you could define your terms. – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 0:19
  • 2
    Can I paraphrase your question as: if I say "I am …", is the part after the "am" always called a complement? – Peter Shor Jun 24 '14 at 1:17
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    @ Wolfpack'08: Since you still haven't edited the question text to provide your definitions for the terms you're using, I'm closevoting as "Unclear What You're Asking". – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 2:50
  • 1
    Be aware that "complement" is a kind of syntactic function. This is different from a kind of category (e.g. NP, AdjP, AdvP, DeterminativePhrase, etc.) The term "complement" is a rather general, or broad, term which basically covers some more specific terms--that is, complements of a clause can be, for example: subject, object, predicative complement. (For instance, an "object" is a special type of complement.) These are types of functions found within a clause structure. Those functions can be realized by stuff from categories: such as NP, AdjP, AdvP, etc. – F.E. Jun 27 '14 at 7:10
  • 2
    The verb BE has various different types of uses, in various different types of clauses. For instance, there are the following: i "She was a lawyer" (copular BE); ii "She was sleeping peacefully" (progressive BE); iii "They were seen by the security guard" (passive BE); iv "You are not to tell anyone" (quasi-modal BE); v "She has been to Paris twice already" (motional BE); vi "Why don't you be more tolerant?" (lexical BE). Examples borrowed from the 2002 CGEL, page 113. – F.E. Jun 27 '14 at 7:21