Modify vs Complement

English grammar questions, answered by Alan

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Modify vs Complement

Post by Lone » Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:37 am

Dear Alan,

I have troubles in differentiating whether a word is modifying or complementing another word in a sentence. For example, I thought 'home' was an adjective which modified 'Sue' in the below sentence. But as you have told me, 'home' is actually an adverb complementing 'Sue'.

'Is Sue home from work yet?'

Do we have any guidelines to follow so that I can avoid similar mistakes?

Many thanks!!!


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Re: Modify vs Complement

Post by Alan » Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:13 am

Essentially, a modifier occurs within a phrase containing the other form to which it relates. Thus in

The red ball is on the table.

the adjective 'red' modifies the noun 'ball', both being parts of the underlined noun phrase 'the red ball', while in

The ball is red.

the same adjective serves simply as a complement. It still relates to the noun, but no longer modifies it.

I hope that gives you a good basic idea!