Compliment vs. Complement: How to Remember the Difference
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Compliment vs. Complement: How to Remember the Difference Image

Compliment and complement are homophones that often confuse writers. After all, they sound almost identical, and there’s only one little vowel separating the two.

So how do you remember whether you need to thank someone for a compliment or a complement?

We’ve broken down the differences below with examples and some helpful tips for keeping these two terms straight.

Definition of Compliment

A compliment is an expression of praise or commendation. It can be as simple as telling your friend how cute her new boots are, or formally acknowledging an employee’s skillful work.

Compliment can be used as a noun (in the sense above), or it can be used as a verb (the act of complimenting someone).

Complimentary is an adjective that describes something which expresses a compliment, but it can also be used to describe free stuff (like when you get complimentary water bottles in your hotel room).

Examples of Compliment in a Sentence

Below are several examples of compliment in a sentence:

  • Stacy’s compliment about Karen’s skirt didn’t seem very genuine.
  • She was complimented by all for her great performance.
  • Sometimes a simple compliment can make a person’s day.
  • I told Jim that he’s stubborn, but I meant it as a compliment.
  • He likes to compliment his colleagues, but then speaks poorly about them behind their backs.

And here are 2 examples of complimentary in a sentence:

  • The wine basket was complimentary since they were on their honeymoon.
  • Season tickets are complimentary for employees.

Definition of Complement

A complement is something that completes something else, or brings it to perfection.

Remember complementary angles from middle school math? They’re called as such because together, the two angles form a 90 degree angle; in this way, they complement each other.

But the term isn’t just reserved for geometry; it can be used to describe the finishing touches on just about anything.

For example, if your fringe jacket goes perfectly with your new boots, you can say it complements your look.

Examples of Complement in a Sentence

See below for more examples of complement in a sentence:

  • Their personalities complement each other, which is why they make such a good team.
  • Her black boots really complement the rest of her outfit.
  • Her teal blouse perfectly complements the color of her eyes.
  • When cooking, he tries to choose ingredients that complement one another for perfect balance.

And here are 2 examples of complementary in a sentence:

  • In economics, complementary goods add value to other items, like how hot dog buns add value to hot dogs.
  • A 40-degree and 50-degree angle are complementary because together, they form a perfect 90-degree angle.

How to Remember the Difference

One little trick for remembering the difference between compliment and complement is that complement looks quite similar to “complete,” which has a very closely-related definition.

If that doesn’t do it for you, you can try associating opposites by remembering that “i” is the first letter of “insult,” which is the opposite of a compliment.

Do you have any tricks for remembering the difference between words that sound similar? Share them in the comments below!


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Compliment vs. Complement: How to Remember the Difference
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