*Comprised Of | Meaning & Correct Usage
It’s illogical to use “comprise” in the passive voice with the same meaning that it already expresses in the active voice—just like it wouldn’t make sense to write, for example, “is bought of” in place of “buys.”
The correct phrase is composed of. The phrase “is comprised of” can also be replaced with comprises, consists of, or is made up of. All of these are valid alternatives; “comprised of” is never correct.
“Comprised of” in other contexts
When it’s used alone (not preceded by a form of the verb “be” such as “is” or “are”), “comprised of” is still incorrect. In this context, it can be replaced by composed of, consisting of, comprising, or made up of.
The debate about “comprised of”
Though “comprised of” (and other uses of “comprise” that treat it as synonymous with “compose”) is traditionally regarded as a mistake, the phrase is so widely used at this point that some commentators believe it should be treated as standard English—or that it soon will be.
Merriam-Webster, for instance, mentions that some people dislike this use of “comprise” but still lists it as a standard sense of the word. It’s possible that “comprised of” may become fully standard in the future, with no one objecting to its use.
For now, though, using “comprise” in this way remains controversial. While many people don’t see it as a mistake, most editors still do. So, in academic writing and other formal contexts, it’s best to use “composed of” or another alternative to avoid any problems.
Worksheet: Comprise vs. compose
You can test your understanding of the difference between “comprise” and “compose” with the worksheet below. Fill in a form of either “comprise” or “compose” in each sentence.
Other interesting language articles
If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
Frequently asked questions
- What is a synonym of “comprise”?
- Be composed of
- Be made up of
- Consist of
People increasingly use “comprise” interchangeably with “compose,” meaning that they consider words like “compose,” “constitute,” and “form” to be synonymous with “comprise.” However, this is still normally regarded as an error, and we advise against using these words interchangeably in academic writing.
- What is a synonym of “compose”?
- Make up
People increasingly use “comprise” as a synonym of “compose.” However, this is normally still seen as a mistake, and we recommend avoiding it in your academic writing. “Comprise” traditionally means “to be made up of,” not “to make up.”
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