Compliment vs. Complement

Complement: A Definition

1. Something that completes, brings to a whole or makes up a perfection

Compliment: A Definition

1. An expression of praise, admiration or congratulation

2. A formal act of civility, respect or courtesy

What is the difference....exactly?

Although the words are pronounced the same, they have very different meanings. When you compliment someone, you are giving them praise; while complement represents completing or making something perfect. You can remember this by the word with the "e" also means complete. Complement = complete. Here are a few examples:

  • I complimented her on her beautiful gown.
  • Her gown complemented her earrings perfectly.
  • The dancer received many compliments for her beauty and grace on stage.
  • The music was a perfect complement to her dancing style.

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Thoughts, Comments or Questions? 22 comments

Plane 4 years ago

You learn something new every day. :D

John 5 years ago

What is correct? Compliments of or compliments from.

Martha 6 years ago

Thank you

William Post 6 years ago

This appears to never grow old!

I was just googling to refresh myself of the difference!

Your hub was the first hit! Thank you!

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papaone 6 years ago

If I send out a free sample it's with compliments.

If I send out a receipt, a signed contract or other information which I think is final, I use "with complements".

Debbie 6 years ago

Complimentary is free... Compliment is a praise... Complement completes something, so it's Compliments of the house...

PedanticFellow 6 years ago

Hmmm. Agreed. So why does everyone send compliment slips and not complement slips?

Mark 6 years ago

"all i need 2 do is match x to it's twin ..."

Oh so wrong on so many fronts. If only it included a to/two/too mistake and we'd have the best example ever.

Allison 6 years ago

For the triangles, it would be complementary.

For the free stuff, it would be complimentary.

Stan 6 years ago

Ok-- I see the definitions above-- if I stay at a hotel and they offer me a "complimentary" drink at the bar are they offering me a "free" drink or are they trying to "complement" (as in perfect) my stay?

Marian 7 years ago

Connorgirl, your example is clearly complEment because together the angles make up a complete straight line.

connorgirl 8 years ago

i love it! which one would be for this question though?

i need to find the measurement of angle x, but i know that both triangles are congruent. all i need 2 do is match x to it's twin on the other triangle. we would call x's twin, x's complement/compliment. which one? thanks! i luv ur kid!

peter 8 years ago

i guess we outsmarted him

krumpletown 8 years ago

The donuts were compliments of Jack? Or complements of Jack?

Bud 9 years ago

So what's the answer to Alex's question?

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Robin 9 years ago from San Francisco Author

Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the comment!

Ben 9 years ago

I am an incurable proofreader (it runs in my family). I can't tell you how often I see "compliment" used where "complement" was clearly intended.

I enjoy your grammar posts - thanks for sharing!

Alex 10 years ago

But you present the easy case. What about "compliments of the house"? Is the freebie making something perfect, or is it flattering the recipient?

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Robin 10 years ago from San Francisco Author

Yes, you did! I appreciate the compliment. I think it's a perfect complement to my other hubs. ;)

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wajay_47 10 years ago

I compliment you on a hub well presented. I hope I got it right! LOL!

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Robin 10 years ago from San Francisco Author

I agree. Thanks for reading. ;)

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StuartJ 10 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

It is surprising how many people get this one wrong -- even in printed documents that should have been proof-read.

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