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Compliment vs. Complement

Updated on July 25, 2013

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.

Thoughts, Comments or Questions?

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    • profile image

      Plane 

      5 years ago

      You learn something new every day. :D

    • profile image

      John 

      6 years ago

      What is correct? Compliments of or compliments from.

    • profile image

      Martha 

      7 years ago

      Thank you

    • profile image

      William Post 

      7 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!

    • profile image

      papaone 

      8 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".

    • profile image

      Debbie 

      8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      PedanticFellow 

      8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Mark 

      8 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.

    • profile image

      Allison 

      8 years ago

      For the triangles, it would be complementary.

      For the free stuff, it would be complimentary.

    • profile image

      Stan 

      8 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?

    • profile image

      Marian 

      9 years ago

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

    • profile image

      connorgirl 

      9 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!

    • profile image

      peter 

      10 years ago

      i guess we outsmarted him

    • profile image

      krumpletown 

      10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Bud 

      10 years ago

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

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the comment!

    • profile image

      Ben 

      11 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!

    • profile image

      Alex 

      11 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?

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • profile image

      wajay_47 

      12 years ago

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

    • Robin profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Edmondson 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      I agree. Thanks for reading. ;)

    • StuartJ profile image

      StuartJ 

      12 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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