What is the difference between "compliment" and "complement"?


What is the difference between "compliment" and "complement"?

"Compliment" and "complement" are two words that are often confused because they sound similar, but they have different meanings. A 'complement' is something that completes something else in some way. But, 'compliment' is a courteous remark that expresses admiration.

"Compliment" refers to an expression of admiration or praise, often given to someone for their qualities or accomplishments. For example, "She gave him a compliment on his new haircut."

On the other hand, "Complement" refers to something that completes or enhances something else, often by providing balance or contrast. For example, "The red curtains were the perfect complement to the blue walls."

Both words come from the Latin complēre (meaning "to complete"). Complement refers to something that completes something else, while compliment has branched off to mean a remark "especially in the form of admiration, esteem, or approval," such as when paying someone a compliment for an achievement or for how they look.

To remember the difference between the two words, you can think of "compliment" as something you say to make someone feel good, while "compliment" is something that makes something else look or work better.

Here are a few more examples to help distinguish between the two words:

  • "The dessert was a perfect complement to the meal." In this sentence, "complement" is used to show that the dessert completed the meal and made it better.
  • "He received many compliments on his speech." In this sentence, "compliments" refers to the expressions of admiration or praise that he received for his speech.
  • "Her shoes complemented her dress beautifully." In this sentence, "complemented" is used to describe how the shoes enhanced the appearance of the dress.
  • "She complimented him on his cooking skills." In this sentence, "complimented" is used to describe how she expressed admiration or praise for his cooking skills.

Overall, while "compliment" and "complement" sound similar and are spelled similarly, they have distinct meanings and should be used appropriately in context.

It's also worth noting that "compliment" can be used as a noun or a verb, while "compliment" is usually used as a noun. For example, "She complimented him on his outfit" uses "complimented" as a verb, while "The wine was a great complement to the meal" uses "compliment" as a noun.

Here are a few more examples to help illustrate the usage of both words:

  • "Your hard work really paid off. I wanted to compliment you on a job well done." In this sentence, "compliment" is used as a verb to express praise for someone's hard work.
  • "The spicy sauce was a perfect complement to the bland chicken." In this sentence, "complement" is used as a noun to describe how the sauce enhanced the flavor of the chicken.
  • "I really appreciate your compliment on my singing. It means a lot to me." In this sentence, "compliment" is used as a noun to describe the expression of praise someone received for their singing.
  • "The rustic decor of the restaurant was a great complement to the farm-to-table cuisine." In this sentence, "complement" is used as a noun to describe how the decor enhanced the overall experience of the restaurant.

Remember that paying attention to context and understanding the meanings of these two words can help you avoid confusion and use them correctly in your writing and speaking.

The Difference between Compliment and Complement Meanings

Let’s get to know how one can distinguish between the commonly confused homophones ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’. When you use the word ‘compliment’ in a sentence, it means either an act of praising someone/something or it is an expression of acclamation/commendation like in the sentence ‘The poet added a special compliment at the end of the book’, whereas the word ‘complement’ refers to the extra accessories or additional things that come with something to enhance its quality e.g., ‘That red purse complements your gorgeous dress.’ After going through this detailed meaning, it will be easier for students to understand and implement these words in sentences.

Examples of Compliment and Complement

Let us consider the given examples of ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ to understand the concept clearly:

Compliment – 

i) The judges complimented all the talented students in the competition. (verb)

ii) Pass my compliments to your sister who’s getting married. (noun)

Complement –

i) The paint on the wall complements its surroundings. (verb)

ii) A nice shoe is a complement to your entire attire. (noun)

As soon as the students grasp the difference between the words ‘compliment’ and ‘compliment’, it becomes easier to apply them in the proper contexts.

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