Note that each of these sentences has a corresponding active:
The long walk tired Madeline out.
[subject] melted the butter.
In sentences with be plus subjective complement, by contrast, the main verb is be and there is no corresponding active sentence:
These sentences do NOT come from active sentences:
*Something tired Madeline by nine o'clock. *Something melted(?!) the lava.
An adjective acting as subjective complement can normally be qualified--at least if it's an adjective that allows a qualifier, for example:Madeline was very tired.The presence of a qualifier is a good clue that the sentence has an adjectival subjective complement.
Madeline was unusually tired.
Madeline was dead tired.
Madeline was not at all tired.
Note, however, that some adjectives that express absolute qualities won't accept qualifiers:*The lava was very molten.
*The highly molten lava destroyed the city.
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Comments to: Sara Kimball
Last updated January, 2001