Circumstantial Complement – Concept, examples and how to recognize them

We explain what the circumstantial complement in a sentence is, its types and how they are identified. Also, examples of each type.

circumstantial complement
The circumstantial complement gives information about the action expressed by the verb.

What is the circumstantial complement?

In grammar and syntax, the circumstantial complement (or rather circumstantial complements, as they can be of many types), is one of the syntactic functions that the noun, adverbial or prepositional phrases fulfill in the sentence.

As the name implies, allow to point out some specific circumstance of how the action occurs expressed by the verb. The latter may refer to the place where it occurs, or to the time, mode, quantity, cause, purpose, and so on.

Thus, for example, in the sentence “My father will come back from work later”, there is an evident subject (“my father”) and in the predicate we have:

  • A main verb (return), which acts as the core of the predicate.
  • A circumstantial complement: “later” that expresses time.
  • Another circumstantial complement: “from his work” that expresses provenance (place).

Like other types of complements (direct, indirect), the circumstantial complement is part of the predicate of the sentence, in which it acts as a direct modifier of the verb, that is, it provides specific information about the action expressed by the verb, which can be of a very different type. That is why there are many forms of circumstantial complement, depending on the aspect of the verbal action on which they focus.

Types of circumstantial complements

The circumstantial complements can be of multiple types, such as:

  • Place circumstantial complement (CCL). They express a spatial location, that is, a place where the action occurs, or from which it comes, or to which it goes. They can be exchanged for an adverb of place. For example: “My father will travel to roman lands”.
  • Circumstantial time complement (CCT). They express a temporal relationship in the action of the verb, be it past, present or future. They can be exchanged for an adverb of time. For example: “My father will travel tomorrow early”.
  • Circumstantial mode complement (CCM). They express a specific way in which the action of the verb is carried out, whether it is an objective or subjective appreciation. They can be exchanged for an adverb of manner. For example: “My father will travel comfortably“Or” My father will travel Against his will”.
  • Circumstantial cause supplement (CCC). They express a causal relationship, that is, they detail the origin or motivation of the action described by the verb. They can be exchanged for an adverb of cause. For example: “My father will travel for Laboral reason”.
  • Circumstantial purpose supplement (CCF). They express a sense of goal, objective, or, as the name implies, a certain purpose. They can be exchanged for an adverb of purpose. For example: “My father will travel to close an important deal”.
  • Company circumstantial complement (CCCo). They express who are co-authors of the action of the verb, or who accompany the sentence subject. For example: “My father will travel with its partners”.
  • Instrumental circumstantial complement (ICC). They express with what thing the action of the verb was carried out, that is, what instrument was used for it. For example: “My father will travel in a private company jet”.
  • Circumstantial quantity supplement (CCCant). They express the measure or proportion in which the action of the verb is carried out. They are interchangeable with adverbs of quantity. For example: “My father will travel many times”.
  • Property circumstantial supplement (CCP). They express a relationship of ownership or authorship intrinsic to the action of the verb. For example: “My father is from Barcelona”.
  • Subject circumstantial complement (CC Subject). They express a theme or a matter to which the action described by the verb refers. For example: “My father will speak on financial investments”.

How to identify the circumstantial complement?

The easiest way to identify a circumstantial complement is to prove that it is neither a direct object nor an indirect object, but rather that it is a phrase that depends on the main verb of the sentence, and that expresses complementary or additional information, depending on be the case. As we already said, this let us replace them with an adverb of the corresponding category.

It is possible, however, distinguish between circumstantial complements if we ask the sentence the right question, and we look at the logical answer to it.

If we suspect that it is a circumstantial complement of place, it will be logical that the question to ask is “Where?”, “Where to?” or “From where?”, while for a circumstantial complement of time we must ask “When?” or “Since when?”, and for a circumstantial complement of way we must ask “How?” or “In what way?”, and so on for the rest of the categories.

Examples of circumstantial complements

Here are some additional example sentences in which we make the circumstantial complement explicit and indicate what type it is.

  • Prayer: Cockroaches appear in that corner.
    Circumstantial complement of place: “in that corner” (In where do cockroaches appear?).
  • Prayer: My grandparents emigrated from Stockholm.
    Circumstantial place complement: “from Stockholm” (From where Did my grandparents emigrate? ”).
  • Prayer: Elections will be held day after tomorrow.
    Situational complement of time: “the day after tomorrow” (¿When will the elections be held?).
  • Prayer: The pizza will arrive right on time.
    Situational complement of time: “on time” (¿When pizza coming?)
  • Prayer: The soldiers returned reluctantly.
    Circumstantial mode complement: “reluctantly” (¿How did the soldiers return?).
  • Prayer: My cat approaches me as who does not want the costo.
    Circumstantial complement of mode: “as one who does not want the thing” (¿How does my cat approach me?).
  • Prayer: We will go to the cinema With my brother.
    Companion circumstantial complement: “with my little brother” (¿With who shall we go to the movies?).
  • Prayer: They saw you with your girlfriend in the theater.
    Situational complement of place: “in the theater” (¿Where did they see you with your girlfriend?)
    Companion circumstantial complement: “with your girlfriend” (¿With who did they see you at the theater?)
  • Prayer: The day before yesterday I arrive from Italy my aunt with her husband.
    Circumstantial time complement: “The day before yesterday” (¿When Did my aunt come from Italy with her husband?).
    Circumstantial place complement: “from Italy” (¿From where My aunt arrived the day before yesterday with her husband?).
    Companion circumstantial complement: “with her husband” (¿With who did my aunt arrive from Italy the day before yesterday?).
  • Prayer: Those men lie much and without any cheek.
    Circumstantial quantity complement: “a lot” (¿How many do these men lie?).
    Circumstantial complement of mode: “without any impudence” (¿How do these men lie?).
  • Prayer: Lately the lizards move very little.
    Circumstantial quantity complement: “very little” (¿How many lizards moving lately?).
    Circumstantial time complement: “Lately” (¿When lizards move little?).
  • Prayer: Your friends only talk Politics.
    Circumstantial subject complement: “politics” (¿About what only your friends speak?).
  • Prayer: These are the books of German from my niece.
    Subject circumstantial complement: “de Alemán” (¿About what Are they my niece’s books?).
    Circumstantial complement of membership: “from my niece” (¿Whose are the German books?).
  • Prayer: In Argentina they eat pizza with cutlery.
    Circumstantial place complement: “In Argentina” (¿Where Do they eat pizza with cutlery?).
    Instrumental circumstantial complement: “with cutlery” (¿With what thing Do you eat pizza in Argentina?).