What are the subject complements in "Opportunity is missed by most people and it is dressed in overalls and looks like work"?


Opportunity is missed by most people and it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

In the sentence, are the words 'missed' and 'dressed' subject complements? And I'd like to know whether past participles can be used as subject complements or not.

thein lwin

Posted 2016-07-30T06:36:07.247

Reputation: 1 865

1The first clause look like a verbal passive to me, the active counterpart being "Most people miss opportunity". But in the second clause, "dressed" is a 'state' and hence an adjectival complement (subjective). – BillJ – 2016-07-30T09:50:43.227

To answer the second part of your question: there are many adjectives formed of past participles that can be subject complements, as indeed "dressed" is in your example. Some other examples are: "They were very worried"; "They were still happily married": "They became very frightened"). But not all past participles have adjectives formed of them, and thus cannot be subjective complements, e.g. "rumour" as in "It is rumoured that there will be an election soon"; "repute" as in "Kim is reputed to be very rich"; "give" as in "Ed was given a new pair of shoes". – BillJ – 2016-07-30T16:36:46.280



Most people miss opportunity.

Opportunity is missed by most people.

The second statement is a restatement of the first, as a passive voice construction; you can also understand the second statement to be a simple predicate in which "missed by most people" is a complement applied to Opportunity, the subject.

Learning grammatical concepts and learning to understand and speak a language are often very different things.

It (opportunity) is dressed in overalls (clothing for physical work where the worker gets dirty).

Opportunity dresses itself in overalls. Or perhaps Opportunity is a little child and Opportunity's mother has dressed it in overalls.

Opportunity is dressed in overalls.

"dressed in overalls" is a complement applied to opportunity.

(It) opportunity looks like work.

The verb there is "looks like" or "looks", take your pick. The complement is either "like work" or "work". Opportunity resembles work.

It appears to be work.

Most people miss opportunity because they're expecting it to be something other than hard work.

"To miss" can mean "to fail to be in the right place at the right time".

He missed the train.

He missed an opportunity to get a free update to Windows 10. Perhaps he seized the opportunity to stick with Windows 7. :)

It can also mean "to overlook, to fail to recognize, to fail to notice".

I missed you standing there in the shadows.

Did he really say those words in the murder scene? I totally missed that.

So the statement is a bit of a pun or a play on words. We miss opportunity (as we miss a train) because we fail to recognize it when we see it. We're looking for something flashy, but opportunity is dressed for hard work.


Posted 2016-07-30T06:36:07.247

Reputation: 116 610

Did I miss something? This answer got a downvote only a few minutes after my upvote? – Damkerng T. – 2016-07-30T10:00:10.700

To answer the OP's question, are you saying that "missed" and "dressed" are subject complements, i.e adjectives? – None – 2016-07-30T10:00:42.810

I'm saying that the complements can all be understood to apply to the subject, even though in the first case, missed, it appears to be simply a passive construction, and in the second, dressed, it could be reflexive or passive, and in the third,looks we could quibble over the nature of perception and whether the attribute inheres in the subject. Can something look a certain way without lookers? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T10:05:58.063

The passive "missed by most people" is complement of "is"; together they form the predicate of the sentence. But it is not a subject complement, which is what the OP was asking about. Subject complements occur in active clauses. – None – 2016-07-30T10:38:15.047

How are missed and dressed different when missed means "overlooked"? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T11:53:59.117

"Missed" has a by- phrase complement ("by most people"), and an active counterpart and hence the clause "missed by most people" must be a verbal passive. By contrast, the interpretation of "dressed" in the OP's example is not dynamic but static with a similar meaning to "attired" and hence the clause "it is dressed in overalls" is best seen as a complex-intransitive one. – None – 2016-07-30T13:42:00.440

How about "Details presented in fine print are often overlooked" versus "Details presented in fine print are often overlooked by readers in a hurry". Are both passive, not subject complements? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T13:47:04.587

What do you think? Short passive perhaps? – None – 2016-07-30T13:53:51.863

Well, I'm not clear on the precise definition of "subject complement". If it involves the past participle of a verb, does the verb have to be an intransitive verb? The sleeve was frayed (subj complement). The sleeve was torn (possibly not a subj. complement). The shirt was buttoned (not a subj. complement)? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T14:14:32.903

Subject complements (in full 'subjective predicative complements'), only occur in complex-intransitive clauses. They are almost always adjectives ("Ed is very rich") or nouns ("Kim is a teacher"), though a few non-finite clauses are also found. I'd say that "frayed" is definitely an adjectival subj comp (there's no verb "to fray"), but "torn" is ambiguous between an adjectival subj comp as in "The sleeve was torn ages ago" ("the sleeve was in the state resulting from prior tearing) and a passive verb as in "The sleeve was torn by the assailant" (not subj comp). – None – 2016-07-30T15:03:38.477

FWIW, there is a verb "to fray" and it's both transitive and intransitive. The shirt was not of high quality and the sleeves frayed after only one washing. Moving your wrist back and forth on your mousepad a few thousand times a day can fray your sleeve. That constant racket is fraying my nerves! – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T15:15:43.100

Are you okay now on the contrast between verbal passives and complex-intransitive clauses? – None – 2016-07-30T15:22:38.020

I'm not sure what you mean by a complex intransitive clause. A simple sentence using a subject, a copula, and a complement? – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T15:30:29.023

I can now see that I missed this part the first time: [ "missed by most people" is a complement applied to Opportunity, the subject. ] -- IIRC, I skipped that sentence after reading the sentence long enough to see that it was identified as a passive voice. Personally, grammatical terms aren't that important for me (but the meaning is, and very), but I think PaulM is right about this missed by (that most books wouldn't call it a subject complement 'cause it's a passive voice). Then again, making head or tail if an -ed form is an adjective or a (passive) verb is not always worth it, IMO. – Damkerng T. – 2016-07-30T15:40:49.893

@TRomano Yes, essentially. A clause containing a subjective predicative complement but no object, so yes, subject-copula (or other linking verb)-predicative complement. "They were / seemed / felt / tired". Nouns too can be PCs, e.g. "Ed is / became / remained a doctor". – None – 2016-07-30T15:57:31.643

It seems a very fuzzy category to me when the adjective is formed by the past participle. He was unsettled. He was unsettled by the news. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-07-30T18:48:57.197

I know what you mean. Here's the introductory paragraph on adjectival passives from a well-known grammar text book: "There is a large-scale overlap between adjectives and the past participle forms of verbs, and since the verb "be" can take complements headed by either of these categories we find a significant resemblance, and often an ambiguity, between a verbal passive and a complex intransitive clause containing an adjectival passive as predicative complement". – None – 2016-07-30T19:15:55.577