Complement vs Adjunct
Many students often confuse a complement with an adjunct. Both a complement and an adjunct are a part of a sentence and provide information about something in the sentence. But the key difference between them is that a complement gives essential information about something (a part of the sentence) and an adjunct provides dispensable (nonessential) information about something.
Taking a complement out of the sentence makes the sentence ungrammatical or changes the core meaning of the sentence and makes it incomplete in a way. But we can’t say the same about an adjunct. An adjunct can be removed from the sentence without making the sentence ungrammatical or changing its core meaning.
Note that we have several types of complements in English. The job of a complement is to complete the meaning of a part of the sentence. An adjunct, on the other hand, is an adverb (usually) or an adjective.
Complement vs Adjunct (difference table)
|Basis of difference||Complement||Adjunct|
|Definition||It is a word, phrase, or clause that completes the meaning of a part of the sentence (subject, object, verb, adjective).||It is a word or a group of words that gives nonessential information about something in a sentence.|
|Function||It completes the meaning of a part in a sentence by giving essential (grammatically indispensable) information about it.||It modifies a verb or a noun and gives nonessential information about it.|
|Importance||It is crucial for the grammatical sanctity of the sentence. Without it, the sentence stops making sense and becomes ungrammatical.||It is not essential to the meaning or the grammatical sanctity of the sentence. The information it gives is an adjunct (extra) to the sentence.|
|Removal||Its removal is harmful to the sentence.||It can be removed without making the sentence ungrammatical.|
Let’s look at some examples of complements in sentences and see how they function.
- My friend Monu is unbelievably hilarious.
Here, the adjective phrase ‘unbelievably hilarious‘ is a complement to the subject (subject complement). It gives essential information about the subject. Without it, the subject will be incomplete and does not make sense.
- I will make you a fluent speaker.
This sentence also has a complement: a fluent speaker. It is a noun phrase working as an object complement that completes the meaning of the object ‘you’. Taking the complement out of the sentence drastically changes the meaning of the sentence and makes it strange in terms of the meaning it gives.
The sentence looks like this without the complement: ‘I will make you’.
It has a different meaning: a strange one. I can’t make you. You are not a dish or a project. Without the object complement, the sentence stops giving the same meaning (in this case, stops making sense).
- Don’t put me in his class.
In this example, the prepositional phrase ‘in his class’ is a complement to the verb (verb complement). It completes the meaning of the verb. Removing it makes the sentence incomplete and takes away its meaning.
This is how the sentence looks post removing the complement: ‘Don’t put me.’
Reading the sentence, we are forced to think ‘put me where?’. This sentence without the complement does not make sense. You have to put something somewhere. The place is important for the meaning of the verb.
- I want my money.
Here, the noun phrase ‘my money’ is a complement to the verb. Without it, the sentence ( I want) looks incomplete. How would you react if came to you and said “I want”? You would want to know what, what I want. I need to complete the sentence by adding the object (verb complement) to the sentence.
- I was shocked to see Jon at my wedding.
Here, the infinitive phrase ‘to see Jon at my wedding’ is giving the reason for the subject being in the state (adjective). It is modifying the adjective ‘shocked’ and complementing it. It is an adjective complement here.
- After I am gone, please look out for my dogs.
- We needed a lawyer.
- Rahul is the best cook in our family.
- You are extremely talented.
- I was happy that you came to the party.
Adjuncts are often adverbials. Let’s study examples of adjuncts.
- I always help my friends.
Here, ‘always‘ is an adjunct, modifying the main verb by talking about its frequency.
- In the evening, we are having a party at my place.
In this example, we have two adjuncts: a) in the evening, and b) at my place. The first one is talking about the time of the action (adverb of time), and the second one is talking about the place of the action (adverb of place). Note that both are nonessential to the core sentence (We are having a party.)
- He spoke to us angrily.
‘Angrily’ is an adverb of manner. Since it’s not essential to the core meaning of the sentence, we will call it an adjunct.
- We just want to see him for a couple of minutes.
Here, the adverb ‘just’ is an adjunct.
- Luckily, I was there to help you.
In this example, ‘luckily’ is a sentence adjunct. It is showing the speaker’s mood/attitude towards the situation. When an adjunct modifies an entire sentence, we call it a disjunct.
Hope you have understood what complements and adjuncts are, and how they are different from each other. Do share the post with others to help. If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to comment in the comment section.