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'Compliment' or 'Complement'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 15 September 2023)

compliment vs complement

Compliment vs Complement: Understanding the Difference

Compliment and complement may look similar at first glance, but their meanings are completely different.

What Does Compliment Mean?

As a noun, compliment (/ˈkɒmplɪmənt/ or /ˈkɒmpləmənt/) refers to a comment that expresses praise or approval:

Everyone kept paying Usher compliments on his singing.

✅ She paid me compliments on my clothes.

Compliment (/ˈkɒmplɪment/ or /ˈkɒmpləment/) can also be used as a verb meaning 'to flatter' or 'to praise':

Everyone complimented Usher on his singing.

✅ She complimented me on my clothes.

What Does Complement Mean?

If people or things complement (/ˈkɒmplɪment/ or /ˈkɒmpləment/) each other, they have different qualities that go well together:

✅ Chris and Susan complement each other in all the important ways and make a perfect couple.

✅ The red wine complemented the meal perfectly.

Tips for Remembering the Difference between Compliment and Complement

The spelling difference can act as a helpful mnemonic device.

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Examples from the Media

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said it is a 'great honour' to receive a compliment from Russian President Vladimir Putin. —BBC (2015)

When I complimented him on his command of the language, he said he was learning and practising, and never missed the chance to try out his English whenever a non-Chinese passenger climbed into his vehicle. —South China Morning Post (2015)

We both complement one another and whilst we have many different interests, that is part of the attraction as we can share our differences with one another and learn new things. The Sydney Morning Herald (2011)

Many apps, accessible right on your phone, offer innovative services that can help you address a wide range of health-care matters and complement existing medical services in the province where you live. —Toronto Star (2021)

Practice

Choose the correct words to complete the sentences.

1. The new furniture compliments/complements the overall design of the room.

2. Sarah complimented/complemented her friend on her beautiful dress.

3. Paul and I complimented/complemented the chef on the delicious meal we had.

4. A leather jacket would compliment/complement the outfit perfectly.

5. The accessories she chose complimented/complemented her outfit beautifully.

6. They complimented/complemented Thomas on his successful piano recital.

7. Her design skills compliment/complement my business management skills and vice versa.

8. His skills in marketing complimented/complemented her expertise in sales.

Answer Key

1. complements    2. complimented    3. complimented    4. complement    5. complemented    6. complimented    7. complement    8. complemented

Recommended Further Reading

'Complimentary' or 'Complementary'?

Real-World Examples of Misuse


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