ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Complement and Compliment – Common Mistakes in English as a Second Language (ESL)

Updated on March 30, 2014
Complement or compliment, which one is it?
Complement or compliment, which one is it? | Source

PLUS: Complementary and Complimentary

Complement and compliment are two words in the English language that cause slight confusion among learners of English as a Second Language or ESL.

The confusion springs from the fact that these two words are so similar in more than one way.

Both have similar pronunciations and even spellings.

Also, both can function either as a noun, which can be a subject or an object in a sentence, or a verb, which is an action word.

However, they have different meanings and should be used differently in sentences.

Below is quick guide on understanding and correctly using the words complement and compliment.

When to Use Complement

We use complement in the following situations:

  • When we need a noun in a sentence, then we may go for complement.
  • When used as a noun, complement may refer to a person or thing that makes a good match to something or someone.
  • It can refer to a person or thing that completes someone or something.
  • It can also refer to a part that makes a two-part thing complete.
  • When we need a verb in a sentence, then we may also use complement.
  • When used as a verb, complement may mean to “serve as a complement (noun).”
  • It can also mean to “complete.”

Examples of Complement in Sentences

  1. Peanut sauce is a tasty complement to spring rolls.
  2. We serve a complement of spring rolls from Asia.
  3. Fish balls are a complement to noodle soups.
  4. Teriyaki sauce complements most kinds of meatball.
  5. Vegetables complement balanced meals.

When to Use Compliment

We use compliment in the following cases:

  • When we need a noun in a sentence, then we can use compliment.
  • When used as a noun, compliment means "a flattering remark" or "an admiring comment."
  • It can refer to a formal way of paying respects.
  • It can also refer to formal greetings.
  • When we need a verb in a sentence, then we can also use compliment.
  • When used as a verb, compliment means to “give compliments (noun).”
  • It can mean to “show kindness.”
  • It can also mean to “congratulate.”

Examples of Compliment in Sentences

  1. The mayor thanked the president for his generous compliments.
  2. The president paid the mayor the compliment of a formal visit.
  3. The president gives his holiday compliments on national television.
  4. The president complimented the mayor for his good leadership.
  5. He complimented the mayor with a Presidential Badge of Honor.
  6. He complimented him for a job well done.

Some Notes on Complementary and Complimentary

Two related words to complement and compliment are complementary and complimentary.

These two words have different uses in a sentence:

  • Complementary is usually an adjective. In cases when it refers to a color, then it functions as a noun.
  • Complimentary may be a noun or an adjective.

They also have different definitions:

  • Complementary (adjective): acting as a complement
  • Complementary (noun): a color that looks good with another color or other colors
  • Complimentary (adjective): flattering; free
  • Complimentary (noun): something that is free

Examples of Complementary and Complimentary in Sentences

  1. Peach is a complementary color. It goes well on any skin tones.
  2. Black, silver, and white are complementary to most colors.
  3. Thank you for your complimentary words.
  4. This is complimentary. It is not for resale.

Mini Test on Complement , Compliment, Complementary, and Complimentary

  1. Black pumps _____ many kinds of office wear.
  2. She got _____ from her colleagues for her smart outfit.
  3. A black pencil skirt is _____ to most blouses.
  4. As a prize, she got _____ dresses.
  5. She likes getting _____, words that just make her feel great.

Mini Test Answers

  1. complement
  2. compliments
  3. complementary
  4. complimentary
  5. compliments

Copyright © 2012 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Kerlyn, you're a good teacher. Sometimes these questions are asked, and the answer just adds to the puzzle. Your explanations are very clear. Thanks!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Now that I see these two words together, I wonder how many times I have made this mistake. Thanks for posting this educational hub. It is one I needed to rethink and adjust in my writings.

    • Ely Maverick profile image

      Ely Maverick 

      7 years ago from The Beautiful Archipelago of the Philippines

      I understand that there are simple but confusing words in English language when it comes to meaning.

      This hub greatly helped me to understand those nuances. Thanks for sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)