A predicate noun, or predicate nominative, is a noun or noun phrase that provides more information about the subject of the sentence. It completes a linking verb, like “to be.” Predicate nouns can only follow linking verbs because they’re expressing a state of being, not an action.
These types of nouns cannot follow action verbs because the only nouns that follow these verbs are objects, which receive - directly or indirectly - the action of the verb. Let’s look at a few examples of predicate nouns in action.
A linking verb connects the subject of a sentence with a word that provides more information about the subject. They do not show any action.
Common linking verbs include: am, is, are, was, were, being, and been. In the sentences below, the linking verb is in bold and the predicate noun is in italics.
- I am now acting president of the corporation.
- Wind turbines are a renewable source of power.
- Many people's favorite movie genre is action or drama.
- Mario Garcia has been councilman for five years.
- A teenager's favorite food must be hot dogs.
- My homes have been a basement apartment, a trailer, and a house.
- Dinner can be whatever you find in the refrigerator.
- Kathy has been my neighbor since I moved in.
- J. K. Rowling may be one of the best writers ever.
- Rhonda used to be the tallest girl in her class.
- An honest man should have been the leader of the country.
- At the end of the tournament, my daughter was the leader.
- He is a real help to his mother.
- Before the competition, they were the favorites to win.
- Pavarotti was a wonderful tenor.
- BMWs and Mercedes are luxury cars.
- For many of us on the team, the fans were an embarrassment.
- When I was younger, my favorite pastime was reading.
- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first astronauts to walk in the moon.
Other verbs that have non-action functions include “seem,” “appear,” “become,” and “remain.” And, finally, certain verbs pertaining to the five senses may also be considered non-action verbs. For example:
- You seem upset.
- Why does she appear so upset?
- I would like to remain anonymous.
- The soup smells good.
- Her new song sounds rather sad.
- Her new soup tastes horrific.
In this example, although “smells” seems to refer to one of the five senses, it’s actually referring to the condition of the soup; it’s not referring to performing the actual action of smelling.
Let’s enjoy some famous quotes that make use of predicate nouns. Again, the linking verbs are in bold and the predicate nouns are italicized.
- "Today is a king in disguise."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- "We are the world / We are the children / We are the ones who make a brighter day."
- "We Are the World" by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie
- "I am the king of the world!"
- Jack Dawson, Titanic
Now that you’re comfortable with predicate nouns’ place after a linking verb, it’s time to add a tiny curveball. Predicate nouns aren’t the only words that can appear after a linking verb. You’re also likely to see predicate adjectives slide into this position.
For example: Mary is pretty.
In this sentence, Mary is the subject, “is” is the linking verb, and “pretty” is the predicate adjective adding further description to Mary. However, if the example read, “Mary is a beautician,” you’d know that Mary is the subject, “is” is the linking verb, and “beautician” is the predicate noun.
Let’s look at another example: Jonathan is a taxidermist.
Here, “taxidermist” is a noun, providing further detail regarding the subject, making it a predicate noun.
Here’s one more: Alexander is talented. In this case, “talented” is an adjective, providing further detail regarding the subject, making it a predicate adjective.
Predicate nouns are a great way to bolster the subject of the sentence. It allows our writing to be more concise, because we get the subject and the verb right out of the way with clarity. Then, in the second part of the sentence, we can add some exciting description.
Are you interested in learning more about predicate adjectives? See if you can master your newfound skills with this Predicate Adjectives Worksheet.