Do you need to know the difference between 'complement' vs. 'compliment?' You are not alone. These two words are homophones. They have similar pronunciations but different spellings and meanings. So, it can be challenging to remember the difference between the two.
You do not need to worry, though. I will give you definitions for each, usage tips, sample sentences, and more.
Are you in a hurry?
If so, here is a quick answer:
While that gives you an idea of the difference, these two words confuse many native English speakers and proficient writers. It helps to study these two in-depth. So, keep reading!
I will never forget walking into the kitchen at my office one day and seeing a sign taped to the refrigerator explaining the difference between 'complement' and 'compliment.' Another co-worker brought some pastries to work and attached a note that said:
'Complementary pastries, help yourself!'
When telling someone something is free, the correct word is 'complimentary.' I felt bad for the kind co-worker who quickly jotted the flawed note on the way to their desk.
So, to make it clear, 'complementary' means something that adds value to something when the two are joined together. The note my co-worker left would have been correct if it said:
Help yourself. Complimentary breakfast. Pastries with complementary fillings and freshly brewed coffee.
Notice that complimentary means free, and complementary describes the filling in the pastries. Eating the pastries would be like a croissant or biscuit, but with the complementary filling; they are a breakfast treat.
'Complement' can be a noun or a verb that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means:
As a noun, it means:
Knowing synonyms of a word helps you understand what alternate terms are grammatically correct.
So, here are the synonyms of 'complement.'
'Compliment' can also be a noun meaning:
It can also be a verb meaning:
Even after learning the definitions of these two words, they can be confusing. So, here is a quick usage guide to help you keep them straight.
For example, you may hear people say:
The sauce complements the steak perfectly. Each bite is better than the last.
For example, you could say:
He complimented her all day, telling her that her hair was glossy and beautiful, her skin was like silk, and she was the most intelligent person he knew.
In the past, 'compliment' and 'complement' were interchangeable. Over time, the two words developed different definitions, and neither is listed as a synonym of the other.
Learning proper pronunciation is a huge part of learning to speak English or becoming a better writer. If you cannot pronounce a term, it could make you hesitant to use it.
So, follow this pronunciation guide.
As you can see, the pronunciation of both is the same, which is one of the reasons many confuse these words.
Seeing the difference in how you use the terms in sentences will also help cement the information in your brain.
Take a look:
You are likely an expert on the difference between 'complement' vs. 'compliment' now, but here is a quick recap:
If you ever get these two words mixed up in the future, just come back for a quick review, and visit the confusing words section frequently to learn about other terms that people misuse.