Difference between Compliment and Complement

If there is a list of commonly confused words, you would surely find the words ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ in that list. There has been a common trend of misusing one word for the other. So to make sure one doesn’t get confused while using these words, this article will walk you through all the important points that you need to know about these words.

The English Language is undoubtedly one of the trickiest subjects that confuses many with its similar sounding words. If you know the meaning of the words, English becomes a cakewalk for you. Understanding the meaning of the words can help one have a clear idea of when and how to use them. Let us have a look at the following points that will help you develop a clear understanding of ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’.

Table Summarising the Difference between Compliment and Complement

Compliment Complement
Meaning The word compliment means an expression to praise or acclaim someone/something. The word complement means an addition or accompaniment of something else.
Usage It is used as a Noun and Verb. It is used as a Noun and Verb.
Example My brother complimented me on my gown. The breakfast was served as a complement.

Thus as you can see, both the words ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ though might sound the same have entirely different meanings. So they can’t be used interchangeably or synonymously. A detailed explanation of both the terms will be discussed below, and it will help you to have a better understanding of these words.

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 ‘complement’, it becomes easier to apply them in the proper contexts.

Compliment and Complement – Conclusion

So, even though ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ sound similar, they can’t be used interchangeably or synonymously. Once students get this concept, it becomes easier for them to understand and use the terms correctly in sentences. Also, BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘Differences Between Two Words’ that students often get confused with.


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