Compliment vs. Complement | Difference & Examples
Compliment and complement are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings.
- Compliment (with an “i”) can be used as a noun to refer to admiration or praise. As a verb, it refers to the act of praising.
- Complement (with an “e”) can be used as a noun to refer to something that completes or enhances something else. As a verb, it refers to this act of completing or enhancing.
|Examples: Compliment in a sentence||Examples: Complement in a sentence|
|Hannah received a compliment on her new summer dress.||The acidity of the wine complements the flavor of the fish.|
|Peggy complimented Alex on his excellent gardening skills.||The color of the painting is a nice complement to the color of the theater.|
Compliment is used as a noun meaning an expression of praise, admiration, or respect. In this context, it’s often used along with the verb “pay.”
As a verb, compliment means to express praise, admiration, or respect. To compliment someone is to give them a compliment.
Complement can be used as a noun to refer to someone or something that completes, enhances, or works well with someone or something else.
Complement (as a verb) refers to the act of completing, enhancing, or working well with someone or something else.
Complimentary vs. complementary
Complimentary and complementary are both adjectives. Their meanings are closely related to the two nouns.
Complimentary can be used to describe something flattering, like a positive remark or assessment.
It can also be used to mean “free” when referring to goods or services.
Complementary can be used to describe someone or something as enhancing or completing something else.
Complementary is also used in technical contexts:
- In geometry, two angles that can be added together to equal 90 degrees are referred to as complementary angles.
- In optics, colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are referred to as complementary colors (e.g., green and red).
Backhanded compliment is a common phrase used to refer to an insult or criticism expressed in the form of a compliment.
Fishing for compliments
Fishing for compliments is an expression meaning saying or doing something in an attempt to receive compliments—typically by drawing attention to something one wants to be praised for or by criticizing oneself insincerely.
Compliments of is an expression used to identify the source of something that is complimentary (i.e., free). It’s used along with the name of the person or organization from whom the complimentary thing is given.
Worksheet: Complement vs. compliment
Test your knowledge of the difference between “compliment” and “complement” by using our practice worksheet below. Fill in either “compliment” or “complement,” or a related word, in each sentence.
- My teacher rarely offers _______. So when she praised my essay, I was surprised.
- I _______ my partner at least once a day.
- Each member of the team was a _______ to the others.
- The cover of the book really _______ its gothic theme.
- The passengers on the plane were given a _______ meal.
- Alina paid me a backhanded _______ when she said that my purse _______ my outfit.
- My teacher rarely offers compliments. So when she praised my essay, I was surprised.
- Here, “compliment” is a noun meaning “an expression of praise.”
- I compliment my partner at least once a day.
- Here, “compliment” is used as a verb referring to the act of expressing praise.
- Each member of the team was a complement to the others.
- Here, “complement” is correct. In this instance, it is used as a noun to refer to someone or something that completes or works well with someone or something else.
- The cover of the book really complements its gothic theme.
- Here, “complement” is correct. In this instance, it is used as a verb referring to the act of completing, enhancing, or working well with someone or something else.
- The passengers on the plane were given a complimentary meal.
- Here, “complimentary” is correct. In this instance it means “free” in reference to goods or services.
- Alina paid me a backhanded compliment when she said that my purse complemented my outfit.
- In the first instance, “compliment” is used as a noun in the expression “backhanded compliment.” In the second instance, “complement” is used to mean “complete” or “enhance.” The past simple of “complement” is “complemented.”
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.
US vs. UK spellings
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