Can only linking verbs have predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives as complements?

If action verbs can have predicates as well then it would be really helpful to me if you could please share some examples. I am confused regarding this, would really appreciate any help.

This below text is from a grammar book that I am reading:

Only linking verbs can have predicate adjectives as complements.

By definition, predicate nominatives have two distinctive characteristics:

1.   They are always complements of linking verbs.

Source: McGraw-Hill Education Handbook of English Grammar & Usage by Mark Lester.

Here is some more text from this book:

The traditional definition of verb is “a word used to express action or describe a state of being.” As the definition implies, there are two different types of verbs: action verbs and linking verbs that describe the subjects.

PS: also, I read one moderator on stackexchange saying that predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives are just made up stuff, made to sell more grammar books and have no role in English at all; is that true?

  • 1
    In some sense, all grammar is just made-up stuff. But I don't see why predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives are any more made-up than the rest of grammar. Mar 3, 2020 at 10:56
  • @Peter Shor: english.stackexchange.com/questions/140985/… Please read the comment by Colin fine. But regardless of that, I am more interested in understanding this concept than trying to figure out who made it. :P I just asked it in PS so that people answering my question would shed some light on that as well. :))
    – Nick
    Mar 3, 2020 at 11:03
  • @PeterShor, you wrote a sentence and then removed it; why did you remove it?
    – Nick
    Mar 3, 2020 at 11:04
  • I removed it because it wasn't an example of a predicate adjective as a subject complement, but rather an example of a predicate adjective as an object complement. Mar 3, 2020 at 11:27
  • @PeterShor, well, but in my question, I mentioned only "complements" so I would guess that to include "subject complements" as well? Was there a specific reason why you thought subject complements shouldn't be mentioned? I am asking you this because as you removed it so there must have been a good reason why you did so, I am just trying to understand the logic behind it. :)) I am just a novice so trying to learn from experts like you. :))
    – Nick
    Mar 3, 2020 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


The classification of verbs into action/dynamic v stative v link/linking is simplistic and can lead to confusion, though the concepts involved are helpful. And note that the action-stative differentiation is semantically decided, whereas the linking-other differentiation is essentially syntactically based, which makes three disjoint classes almost inconceivable.

Nordquist, at ThoughtCo, addresses the stative - dynamic classification cogently [reproduced here with major reformatting and other, minor, adjustments]:

Exceptions: Verbs that 'are both stative and dynamic'

English also has plenty of gray areas, where a word isn't always only in one or the other category — sometimes words are stative and sometimes those same words are active. As with so many things in English, it depends on context.

Sylvia Chalker and Tom McArthur explain: "It is generally more useful to talk of stative and dynamic meaning and usage [rather than classes alone].... Some verbs belong to both categories but with distinct meanings, as with have in

  • She has red hair [stative] and
  • She is having dinner [active]"

[The Oxford Companion to the English Language Oxford University Press, 1992]

Another example could be with the word feel. Someone can

  • feel sad (a state of being), and a person can also physically
  • feel a texture (an action). They can also tell others to check it out as well:
  • Feel how soft!

Or even think can be in both categories, though thinking doesn't seem like a very dynamic process. Compare the usage in

  • I think that's really lousy

with the famous scene in "Back to the Future" when Biff comes up to George in the cafe and commands him,

  • "Think, McFly! Think," while knocking on his head.


When it comes to thinking about link verbs in this context, note that there can be a continuing state involved:

  • She was happy with her uneventful lifestyle.
  • They remained childless throughout their lives.

or a change

  • He became king / angrier and angrier.
  • The sky turned grey.

Note also there are verbs fulfilling a linking role but also having real semantic content

  • He lay silent on the bed.
  • She sat quite still.
  • The flags hung limp.
  • Resistance proved futile.
  • The Roman army emerged victorious.
  • The Tallis Fantasia sounded incredible.
  • The apple pie tasted delicious.
  • George died insane.
  • He fell dead at their feet.
  • The poor dog was born blind.
  • The poker glowed red.
  • The soldier jumped clear.
  • The idea fell flat.

Again, some of the above examples show stative usages, some show dynamic (and in some cases, it's arguable: is 'glowed' stative or dynamic here?)

  • ok, this seems like a very well written answer; thank you for taking the time out to answer my question, really appreciate it. This is the first time I have heard of the word "stative" so please pardon me while I try to comprehend your reply. In your answer, I can't find the word "predicate" written anywhere, is stative equivalent to predicate?
    – Nick
    Mar 3, 2020 at 12:44
  • 'referring to a state' (non-changing). Mar 3, 2020 at 12:59
  • ok, but what does all this have to do with predicate adjectves and predicate nominatives? that's what I am trying to figure out. I apologize, I am just a novice trying to learn things from experts such as you.
    – Nick
    Mar 3, 2020 at 13:08
  • I've tried to show that the term 'link/ing verb' is untenable. If a suitable verb is used in a linking fashion (and note that while 'be', 'remain', 'turn' and 'become' refer solely to remaining in a single state or changing to another state, other verbs used similarly, like 'sit', 'lie', 'sound', 'taste', 'jump' ... provide additional information and so do more than prototypical 'link verbs'), then yes, it's traditional to call the AdjP or NP after the link verb a predicate adjective or predicate nominative, or a subject complement. Mar 3, 2020 at 14:04
  • @Lucky: at the end of the answer, Edwin gives a dozen sentences with non-linking verbs where predicate adjectives modify the subject. (And while you might argue that some of these are flat adverbs, and that some of the verbs are linking verbs, some of them are clearly predicate adjectives for non-linking verbs, and not simply flat adverbs; "he died insane" means something quite different than "he died insanely.") Mar 3, 2020 at 14:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.