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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.

Questions & Answers

    Thoughts, Comments or Questions?

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      • profile image

        Plane 4 years ago

        You learn something new every day. :D

      • profile image

        John 5 years ago

        What is correct? Compliments of or compliments from.

      • profile image

        Martha 6 years ago

        Thank you

      • profile image

        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!

      • profile image

        papaone 7 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 7 years ago

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

      • profile image

        PedanticFellow 7 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Mark 7 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 7 years ago

        For the triangles, it would be complementary.

        For the free stuff, it would be complimentary.

      • profile image

        Stan 7 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 8 years ago

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

      • profile image

        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!

      • profile image

        peter 9 years ago

        i guess we outsmarted him

      • profile image

        krumpletown 9 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Bud 9 years ago

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

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the comment!

      • profile image

        Ben 10 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 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?

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

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

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        wajay_47 11 years ago

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

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 11 years ago from San Francisco

        I agree. Thanks for reading. ;)

      • StuartJ profile image

        StuartJ 11 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.