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Compliment Vs. Complement

Compliment Vs. Complement: Similar Spellings, Different Meanings

In this article, you will learn how to get over the confusion about when to use compliment and when to use complement. Read it, understand it and you'll know how to use them.
Sujata Iyer
Last Updated: Mar 14, 2018
A very popular Hindi movie has the lead character exclaiming that "English is a very funny language." Though you might not think so at first, if you look into the little intricacies of the English language, you will realize that there are so many things that simply do not make sense. Take homonyms for instance. These are some truly tricky words. Homonyms are two words that are spelled differently, but pronounced the same. Confusing? Well, let's take one of the most commonly misspelled words as an example. I complemented her on her pretty dress. Can't figure out what's wrong? Well, that's because you have been blissfully ignorant to the whole confusion about the use of complement and compliment. And were probably never corrected about it. All that will end with this article. Read on to know more.
The dictionary meaning of the word compliment, is something on the lines of "a use of words to express praise, adulation, or a congratulatory remark". Another meaning of the word is "an act of formality, politeness or respect". In simple words, when someone says something nice about someone, it is a 'compliment'.
The word compliment has three forms. The noun form of the word compliment is 'compliment'. This can be used as follows:
  • He gave her a compliment about her hair.
The verb of the word compliment is again 'compliment.' This can be used in the following manner.
  • He complimented her on her hair.
The adjective form of the word compliment is 'complimentary.' The usage can be as follows:
  • His complimentary remarks made her happy.
The word complimentary can also mean something that has been awarded at no cost to a customer, as a courtesy. For instance,
  • He received complimentary breakfast at the hotel.
The above examples should have clearly shown what the word compliment means. Now, let us see the word 'complement.' The meaning of the word complement is something that completes another. Something, without which, a particular entity cannot be whole. So, basically anything that plays an important role in the fulfillment or completion of another is called its complement. In fact, they are both each other's complements.
The word 'complement' is the noun form of itself. In a sentence, it can be used like:
  • Her shoes are the perfect complement for the dress she's wearing.
The verb form of the word complement is also 'complement.' In a sentence, it can be used as such:
  • The shoes perfectly complement the dress she's wearing.
As you can see, the two words compliment and complement mean totally different things. But the only differentiating element in their spelling is one single letter. If you want a simple way to remember it, try this. The word complEment means to complete. So, the 'E' stands for complete.
Given below is an exercise to test yourself on whether you have understood it or not. All you have to do is use either of the words 'compliment' or 'complement' in the blanks. Scroll down for the answers.
  1. She ________ her sister on her good grades.
  2. The sugar in the tea acts as its _______.
  3. Never miss the opportunity to _______ someone when they achieve something great.
  4. If you ________ me, don't think you'll get what you want.
  5. He acts as a perfect ______ to his wife.
  1. complimented
  2. complement
  3. compliment
  4. compliment
  5. complement
With those explanations and that exercise, we hope that the doubts regarding the use of compliment and complement never arise in your mind. It is an important step to improving your writing abilities to know when to use which word. So use them well.