The Difference: Compliment vs. Complement

The words compliment and complement are both nouns and verbs. They have similar spellings, but different meanings.

A Compliment


A compliment is a positive comment about someone.

Synonyms: a flattering comment, praise, tribute

A compliment is something that was said (or written), not something physical. For example, “You are beautiful” is a compliment.  Here are some examples:

  • My wife complimented me on my new haircut. (verb)
  • My wife gave me a compliment on my new haircut. (noun)
  • I complimented Susan on her great performance.
  • I gave Susan a compliment on her great performance.

Note: The idiom ‘to pay someone a compliment‘ means to give someone a compliment.

A Complement


The main meaning of complement It is a thing that makes something complete. It is something added, e.g. a spice, that makes something perfect, e.g. a soup.

Synonyms: an addition, accompaniment, companion, supplement, accessory

Complements are usually physical things. The word is usually preceded with an adjective, e.g. ‘a good/great/perfect complement’. Here are some examples:

  • Your shoes complement your outfit. (verb) (Meaning: By adding your shoes, you now look perfect.)
  • Your shoes are a great complement to your outfit. (noun)
  • Her voice complemented the song perfectly. (verb) (Meaning: Her voice made the song reach perfection)
  • Her voice was a perfect complement for the song. (noun)

 

Raspberries compliment pancakes well.

Do you think raspberries complement pancakes?

Do you think you understand? Try the compliment vs. complement quiz.

  1. My boss  me on my hard work.
  2. Alfredo was the perfect  to the football team. With his passing skills, the team was unstoppable.
  3. The meal was  by a bottle of red wine from Portugal.
  4. What the man said was not a . It was a little rude, to be honest.
  5. The delicious dinner  a long but enjoyable day.
Show Answers
1. complimented 2. complement 3. complemented 4. compliment 5. complemented

 

If you still have questions about the difference between compliment and complement please leave a comment below.

— Written by Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com

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