Difference Between Adjunct and Complement

Adjunct vs Complement

Since adjunct and complement are terms that come in grammatical theory, it is very useful to know the difference between adjunct and complement. Despite the fact that to most students these two terms appear rather similar, in their functionary capacities, complements and adjuncts have a clear distinction. The objective of this writing is to point out the main difference between these two concepts, adjunct and complement while providing a basic understanding of the two terms. It is true that sometimes the line between a complement and an adjunct can be a bit elusive. However, it has to be borne in mind that the main difference between a complement and an adjunct is that while a complement is indispensable for a sentence or phrase to bring out the meaning, an adjunct is only optional, it merely works as an elaboration of the sentence or phrase. Let us try to understand these two terms, adjunct and complement, through paying specific attention to each term.

What does Complement mean?

When speaking of a complement, it can be defined as a word or set of words which modifies a subject, verb or object. A complement gives meaning to a sentence and if removed makes the sentence grammatically inaccurate. Hence, these are necessary for a sentence, because without it the sentence would not convey a meaning to the reader. Pay attention to the example given below.

Clara is a musician.

In this sentence, “Clara is a musician,” the word musician denotes a complement, this is an example of a subject complement. If one tries to remove the complement (musician), the sentence would be incomplete and grammatically failing.

There are different types of complements. Some of them are as follows:

Subject complement
Object complement
Verb complement
Adjective complement
Adverbial complement

The main idea here is that in the construction of a sentence though a complement can take different forms; it is mandatory for the identity of the sentence.

What does Adjunct mean?

An adjunct, however, is a word or a set of words that provides additional information of functionaries of a sentence. These functionaries could be the subject, object and predicate of a sentence. An adjunct can be removed without making the sentence grammatically inaccurate. Even after the removal of an adjunct, the sentence would still convey a meaning. In this sense, adjuncts can be considered as secondary or optional to the sentence construction that its removal does not detriment the sentence identity. In most occasions, adjuncts are adverbs that assist in describing the verb. These adjuncts could describe time, frequency, manner, place or reason. The function of an adjunct can be understood from the example.

I completely forgot about his arrival.

In this sentence, the word completely stands as an adjunct. It stands as an adverb that describes the verb of forgetting. However, if the adjunct was removed from the sentence, it would neither affect the construction of the sentence nor alter its meaning. The only affect that it would have is the reduction of the strength or magnitude of the action. Let us pay attention to a second example.

Clara helped her mother with the dishes.

Once again the words with the dishes stand as an adjunct. It elaborates the manner in which Clara helped her mother. It is true that by removing the adjunct the sentence loses an aspect of descriptive information yet it does not affect the overall meaning of the sentence.

Difference Between Adjunct and Complement

What is the difference between Adjunct and Complement?

This highlights that the main difference between a complement and an adjunct lies in the impact that it has on the construction of a sentence and its identity.

• While a complement is essential for a sentence to be grammatically correct and for it to convey a meaning, an adjunct is only secondary.
• An adjunct only elaborates the functionaries or provides a more descriptive image of the sentence and its removal does not harm the overall meaning of the sentence nor its construction.