'Compose' vs 'Comprise': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 5, 2023

Do you need to know the difference between 'compose' vs. 'comprise?' These two words look similar. However, they have different meanings. When words confuse you, it helps to learn more about them so you can remember the differences.

That is why I created this guide. It contains definitions, examples, synonyms, and other information to help you differentiate between them.

Need a quick answer?

Here it is: 

  • Compose is a transitive verb that means to create a whole. 
  • Comprise is a transitive verb that represents a portion of a total. 

Compose and comprise have similar yet different meanings. The similarity in spelling, sound, and definition confuses many people. However, after reading this guide, you will know how to correctly define, use, and say both.

When to Use 'Compose' vs. 'Comprise'

You already learned that 'compose' and 'comprise" are transitive verbs with similar sounds, spellings, and meanings.

So, how do you know which to use and when?

Use 'compose' when:

  • You are speaking about one cohesive piece.

For example, I might say something like:

Please compose a story about the most exciting place you have ever visited. Include details about what time of year you visited, the weather, traffic, lodging options, and the local cuisine. 

Use 'comprise' when:

  • Talking about a portion that makes up something.

For example, you could say something like:

 Are you wondering how much of the story comprises facts and how much was sensationalized to increase ticket sales?

So, use 'compose' when discussing something complete and 'comprise' when addressing a portion that makes up a whole piece.  

How to Use 'Compose' and 'Comprise'

Both 'compose' and 'comprise' are transitive verbs. However, you use 'compose' when discussing a whole song, story, play, or document.

For example:

  •  At the end of the journalism course, you have to 'compose' a video covering all of the stories you wrote throughout the class.

'Comprise' is correct when speaking about specific parts of something made up of other elements or components.

For example:

  • How much of the quilt can you 'comprise' from old t-shirts?

So, you can use 'compose' and 'comprise' in the same sentence.

For example:

  • Other people's work should 'comprise' no more than 10 percent of the video you 'compose,' and you must give appropriate attribution.

As you can see from the example above, these two words have nearly the same meaning. In fact, it can be very challenging to differentiate between the two.

Definition of 'Compose': What Does 'Compose' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of 'compose' is:

  • To write or create, especially music or poetry

It can also mean:

  • A whole piece made up of parts
  • Constituted or made up of
  • Formed by parts arranged artistically to create an entire piece
  • Calm down or settle yourself when angry or upset
  • Prepare a story for printing by placing details, interviews, facts, or opinions.
  • To create by putting things together
  • To fashion

Alternate Forms, Synonyms, and Similar Words

  • Composer
  • Composed
  • Composes
  • Composition
  • Composite
  • Compound
  • Combine
  • Compile
  • Craft
  • Create
  • Formulate
  • Form
  • Draw Up
  • Prepare
  • Formulate
  • Draft
  • Prepare
  • Frame

Phrases Containing 'Compose'

Definition of 'Comprise': What Does 'Comprise' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'comprise' means:

  • To be made up of

It can also mean:

  • Constitute
  • To include in a specific scope
  • Part of a whole
  • Put together pieces

Alternate Forms, Synonyms, and Similar Words

  • Comprises
  • Comprised
  • Compile
  • Represent
  • Account for
  • Contain
  • Include

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Compose' and 'Comprise'

Now that you know how to use these two words, are you wondering how to pronounce them?

Here is a quick guide.

To pronounce 'compose,' use this phonetic spelling:


To pronounce 'comprise,' use this phonetic spelling:


How to Use 'Compose' vs. 'Comprise' in a Sentence

In some cases, people may use 'compose' and 'comprise' interchangeably. So, look at these sentences to see how to use them.


  • Do you compose all of your works of art from mixed mediums?
  • Did the teacher tell you you must compose a play to pass the class?
  • Have you heard the latest song by a famous composer?
  • Please take time to compose yourself before you talk to the president. You will only have two minutes to speak to him.
  • I know you are upset, but you have to compose yourself.
  • Have you learned how to compose a formal letter?
  • If you improve your writing, you can compose famous literary works like Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare.
  • After an interview, you should write the hiring manager a thank you letter.
  • She composes the most beautiful music, and she has no formal training.


  • Women comprise the most significant percentage of voters.
  • The organization is comprised of volunteers from all over the world.
  • He composed a beautiful book comprised of photos and stories from famous photographers and authors.
  • How many people comprise the group?
  • Can you tell me how many pieces you can comprise for the project before the deadline?
  • If you can, contact all the people comprised in the yellow section.
  • Please compose a report comprised of all the potential outcomes.
  • Do the supporters comprise a significant portion of the residents living in the area?

Final Advice on the Difference Between 'Compose' vs. 'Comprise'

There are many confusing words in the English language. However, these two words are some of the most challenging to differentiate. They sound different and have different spellings, but the definitions are so similar that people easily get confused.

So, here is a quick recap: 

  • Compose is a transitive verb that means to create something like a piece of poetry, a song, a book, a document, or a work of art. 
  • Comprise is also a transitive verb. However, it refers to part of something whole. 

If you get mixed up in the future, you can always come back for clarification. You can also bookmark the confusing words page to use as a resource in the future. It is especially helpful if you are learning English or want to improve your writing skills.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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