The predicate nominative is a confusing topic in English, even for lifelong speakers. So what is a predicate nominative? Below we explain everything you need to know about what they are and how to use them and give plenty of predicate nominative examples. We’ll also discuss the difference between the predicate nominative and the predicate adjective.
What is the predicate nominative?
The predicate nominative is a type of subject complement that describes the subject as a new noun or noun phrase, as in the example “Veda is a great athlete.” Here, a great athlete is the predicate nominative that describes the subject Veda, while is is the linking verb
Subject complements are a type of predicate that only use linking verbs like be or seem, which relate back to the subject. The opposite of a linking verb is an action verb like jump or run. Action verbs, which, for the most part, work independently of the subject, unlike linking verbs. Because of how linking verbs work, the subject complement always comes after the verb.
Be careful not to confuse a predicate nominative with a predicate adjective, another type of subject complement. Like a predicate nominative, a predicate adjective also describes the subject in a new way, but it does so as an adjective or adjective phrase. Below we talk more about predicate nominative vs. predicate adjective.
How to use a predicate nominative
The predicate nominative can only follow a linking verb, as mentioned above. Linking verbs are a special type of verb that doesn’t show an action but instead describes the subject. The only “action” involved in linking verbs is existing or being in a certain state.
The verb be is the perfect example of a linking verb. The most common verb in English, be is frequently used with predicate nominatives. (Just remember that be has special conjugation rules.)
- She is my new best friend.
- Peso Pluma is a self-taught guitarist.
Sejong the Great was the beloved ruler of Korea from 1418 until 1450.
In this example, the main noun of the predicate nominative is ruler, but the entire predicate nominative includes the article the, the adjective beloved, and the prepositional phrases from 1418 and until 1450. All of these “extra” words connect to ruler, which is the main noun of the predicate nominative. In the end, all parts of the predicate nominative work together to describe the subject, Sejong the Great.
Predicate nominatives can be either simple (one noun / noun phrase) or compound (two or more nouns / noun phrases). Compound predicate nominatives include a conjunction.
Simple: She was the smartest person I have ever met.
Compound: She was the smartest person I have ever met and the best trumpet player, too!
Additionally, predicate nominatives can also be used with any conjugations or tenses of linking verbs.
In December, he will have been an emu rancher for five years.
The three main linking verbs are be, become, and seem. However, there are some verbs, such as remain or act, that can be either linking verbs or action verbs. In the first sentence, remained is used as a linking verb, while in the second sentence acting functions as an action verb.
- She remained the queen until her death.
- Quit acting the fool!
These are the words you have to worry about because they use predicate nominatives only when they’re linking verbs and not when they’re action verbs. We explain more about how to use them below and provide complete lists.
Predicate nominative vs. predicate adjective
The predicate nominative and the predicate adjective are the two most common types of subject complements, so it makes sense that they are often mixed up. After all, both follow linking verbs and describe the subject.
The difference between the predicate nominative and predicate adjective is whether the subject complement is a noun phrase or an adjective phrase. Predicate nominatives use noun phrases, while predicate adjectives use adjective phrases.
Predicate adjective: As I got older, I became smarter.
Predicate nominative: As I got older, I became a smarter person.
Although the sentiment is the same, these two examples use different grammar. The predicate adjective uses the adjective smarter to describe the subject I. The predicate nominative uses a noun phrase that revolves around the noun person, also to describe the subject I.
List of linking verbs that use the predicate nominative
Main linking verbs
These three verbs are always linking verbs and can only use predicate nominatives and other subject complements.
Linking verbs/action verbs
These are verbs that can be used as either linking verbs or action verbs, depending on the context. The verbs below can all use a predicate nominative, but there are other linking verbs that use a predicate adjective. For an explanation of when these verbs can be used as action verbs or linking verbs (with a predicate nominative), see our guide on linking verbs.
Predicate nominative FAQs
What is a predicate nominative?
The predicate nominative is a type of subject complement that describes the subject as a new noun or noun phrase, as in the example “Veda is a great athlete.” Here, Veda is the subject, is is the verb (simple predicate), and a great athlete is the predicate nominative that describes Veda.
How do you use a predicate nominative in writing?
Like other subject complements, predicate nominatives come only after linking verbs like be or seem. If what follows a linking verb is a noun or noun phrase, that makes it a predicate nominative. Predicate nominatives also include other words or phrases that connect to the main noun, including articles (the, a) and prepositional phrases.
What is the difference between the predicate nominative and predicate adjective?
Predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives are both subject complements that come after linking verbs and describe the subject. The difference is that predicate nominatives are nouns or noun phrases, while predicate adjectives are adjectives or adjective phrases. The sentence “I am beautiful” uses a predicate adjective, while the sentence “I am a beautiful person” uses a predicate nominative.