Difference Between Complement and Adjunct

The correct understanding of English grammar is essential to get proficiency in the language and use its different parts perfectly for good communication.

Some of the major elements in a sentence are subject, object, verb, complement, and adjunct and all have their place in conveying the proper message through the sentence.

Adjunct and complement are two important terms that are part of the English grammatical theory. So, it is important to know the difference between these two.  

Complement vs Adjunct

The main difference between Complement and Adjunct is that an adjunct is only an optional phrase to elaborate a sentence whereas a complement is indispensable for a sentence to give a proper meaning to it.

Complement vs Adjunct

Adjunct and complement are similar in appearance but there are comparable differences between their functionalities. The line to separate adjunct and complement can be a little vague.

In general usage, an adjunct is an appendage. It can be something attached to something else in a secondary capacity. When used as a noun, a complement is used as a counterpart, something that added that makes a sentence whole.


Comparison Table Between Complement and Adjunct (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonComplementAdjunct
DefinitionA complement is a word or a set of words which alters a subject, verb, or object.An adjunct is a word or a set of words that can give extra information about functionaries within a sentence.
SignificanceA complement is crucial in a sentence to give it a proper meaning and grammatical correctness.An adjunct is not essential in a sentence to give it a meaning and make it grammatically correct.
RoleA complement provides specific meaning to the sentence.An adjunct provides a descriptive image to the sentence.
EffectRemoval of complement will harm the meaning and construction of the sentence.Removal of adjunct does not harm the overall meaning and construction.
Sentence completionComplement is mandatory for the completion of a sentence.Adjunct is not mandatory for the completion of a sentence.


What is Complement?

Complement is a part of a sentence that constitutes a word or a group of words that modifies the subject, verb, or object.

Complements are needed in a sentence and one should be aware of the correct usage of it in a sentence and about the various forms in which a complement can be used in a sentence.

Complement is the element that gives a specific meaning to a sentence. When it is removed, the sentence will lose its meaning. Usually, one cannot write or speak complete sentences without a complement in it.

There are various types of complements commonly used in a sentence such as

  1. Subject complements
  2. Object complements
  3. Verb complements
  4. Adverb complements
  5. Adjective complements, etc.

For example, in the sentence ‘John is a carpenter’, the word carpenter denotes a complement and belongs to the group of subject complement. If the word ‘carpenter’ is removed from the sentence, it will lose meaning and correctness.

There are different forms for using a complement in a sentence and the sentence needs to be identified with a particular message. 


What is Adjunct?

An adjunct is a part of a sentence that constitutes a word or set of words that can give extra information on the functionaries of a sentence. These functionaries can be different parts of a sentence such as subject, object, or predicate.

In English Grammar, adjuncts are one of the five significant elements of clause structure which is not a necessary phrase to the structure but word or words that can provide some additional meaning to the sentence.

In the sentence I kept a copy of the document on my shelf, the phrase on my shelf adds extra meaning to the sentence. It tells where, and that is an adjunct.

Without an adjunct, sentences can be a little dry and sometimes unable to convey answers to questions like how, where, why, etc. An adjunct can be detached from a sentence without making the sentence wrong or grammatically imprecise.

Even after removing an adjunct from a sentence, it can still provide a meaning. Therefore, the role of an adjunct is secondary in the construction of a sentence.

An adjunct is not essential for sentence construction. Most adjuncts are adverbs using to assist the description of a verb. An adjunct can describe the place, time, reason, manner, frequency, etc.

For Example, in the sentence, ‘I completely forgot about her arrival’, the word completely is an adjunct. When the adjunct is removed from the sentence, it can still convey the meaning. It only affects the magnitude or strength of the action.

Main Differences Between Complement and Adjunct

  1. The main difference between Complement and Adjunct is that and adjunct is not an essential part of the sentence whereas a complement is an essential part of a sentence.
  2. Adjuncts are not needed in the sentence to give it meaning but without a complement the sentence will not convey proper meaning.
  3. A complement is essential for sentence completion whereas an adjunct is not necessary for the completion of a sentence.
  4. Complements are structurally indispensable in a sentence whereas adjuncts are structurally dispensable in a sentence.
  5. Adjuncts are always adverbial but complements can be nouns or adverbs.



The power of language is immense. It is crucial to convey a message through different sentences properly and make others understand.

Correct grammar is the element that can provide beauty and flow to the language. Sentences are essential building blocks of the language but some other parts constitute a sentence.

They are nothing but subject, object, verb, complement, and adjunct. Among these, an adjunct can be understood as decoration or extra. With the adjuncts in the sentence, it may become clearer and precise but they are not essential to convey a meaning or message.

On the other hand, complements are essential to give meaning to a sentence and make it complete. With the understanding of these two parts of a sentence, one can write and use it correctly.

Key Differences Between Complement and Adjunct (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Complement and Adjunct



  1. https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/adjuncts.htm
  2. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/adjuncts
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