Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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Getting started on ancient Greek

2 Subject and complement

The following sentences illustrate a second pattern: Subject + Verb + Complement.

  • Aphrodite is beautiful
  • Themistocles is a general
  • The grass is green
  • The citizens are unhappy

These sentences consist of three parts:

  • a subject (e.g. ‘Aphrodite’ or ‘the citizens’)
  • a ‘linking’ verb like ‘is’, or ‘are’
  • a ‘complement’, describing the subject. The complement is usually an adjective (e.g. ‘green’) or a noun (‘a general’), but phrases are also possible, such as ‘the book is on the table’.

Just a handful of verbs are able to ‘link’ subjects and complements. Note that verbs that take objects, for instance ‘chases’, ‘eats’ or ‘loves’, do not have this capability.

Activity 2 Linking verbs

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

In the sentence ‘The grass is green’, can you think of other ‘linking’ verbs that could replace ‘is’?

Discussion

The list of verbs that can link subjects and complements is short. It would include:

  • seems
  • looks
  • appears
  • becomes
  • remains

A ‘linking’ verb is the main clue to a Subject + Verb + Complement sentence, in Greek as well as English. A form of the verb ‘to be’, such as ‘is’, ‘are’ or ‘was’ is the most common. This is the verb that will be concentrated on here.

A second clue is that a complement, unlike an object, provides a description of the subject. The relationship between subject and complement is often close, as between ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘beautiful’ or ‘Themistocles’ and ‘a general’.

Activity 3 Objects or complements?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Are the highlighted words or phrases objects or complements?

The sky is blue.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is b.

The girl opened the door.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is a.

The horse appears contented.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is b.

Hera is the wife of Zeus.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is b.

The horse chases the man.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is a.

The gods are angry.

a. 

object


b. 

complement


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

The verbs ‘is’, ‘appears’ and ‘are’ are linking verbs that raise the prospect of a complement. The complement, when it appears, describes the subject. This is not true of objects like ‘the door’ or ‘the man’.

Which options could complete these sentences?

The soldiers are __________.

a. 

brave


b. 

cowards


c. 

[a subject]


d. 

[an object]


e. 

[a complement]


The correct answers are a, b and e.

Discussion

The verb ‘are’ is a linking verb, raising the expectation of a complement. The sentence already has a subject. An object is not possible after the verb ‘to be’.

GCG_1

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