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Is It Compliment Or Complement

Published by at February 14th, 2024 , Revised On February 29, 2024

  • Compliment (verb): To express admiration, praise, or approval.
  • Complement (verb): To complete or make perfect something else.

Two words in the English language that often cause confusion due to their similar spellings and pronunciations are “compliment” and “complement.” Despite their apparent likeness, these confusing words carry distinct meanings and serve different purposes in communication.

Defining “Compliment”

Let’s begin by getting into the essence of “compliment.” A compliment, with an ‘i,’ refers to a courteous expression of admiration, praise, or approval. It is a positive statement intended to uplift, flatter, or acknowledge the qualities, achievements, or appearance of an individual. Compliments are fundamental in fostering positive interactions and building personal and professional relationships.

For instance, telling a colleague, “Your presentation was outstanding; you really captivated the audience,” is a compliment that recognises and appreciates their skills and efforts.

Examples Of Compliment

  1. Sarah blushed with delight when Tom paid her a sincere compliment on her exceptional presentation skills.
  2. Jake received a compliment from his boss for his outstanding performance on the recent project.
  3. The chef appreciated the diner’s compliment on the delicious and perfectly seasoned dish.
  4. Lisa couldn’t help but smile when her friend paid her a heartfelt compliment about her kindness and generosity.
  5. After the concert, the musician was overwhelmed with joy when the audience complimented him on his extraordinary musical talent.
  6. When John wore his new suit to the office, several colleagues went out of their way to pay him compliments on his sharp and stylish appearance.


On the other hand, “complement” with an ‘e’ has a different role in the linguistic landscape. In this context, “complement” refers to something that completes or goes well with another. It is about enhancing or perfecting a whole by adding a component that is lacking or needed. This term is frequently used in various fields, including linguistics, mathematics, and biology.

Consider the sentence, “The red wine is a perfect complement to the savoury steak.” Here, the wine enhances the overall dining experience by pairing well with the steak, creating a harmonious combination.

Examples Of Complement

  1. The rich red wine served as the perfect complement to the savoury flavours of the grilled steak.
  2. The new furniture complemented the existing decor, creating a cohesive and stylish look in the living room.
  3. The marketing team designed an advertising campaign to complement the company’s brand image and values.
  4. The warm tones of the throw pillows were selected to complement the room’s neutral colour scheme.
  5. The salad dressing was carefully crafted to complement the fresh, crisp vegetables in the garden salad.
  6. The additional staff members proved to be a great complement to the existing team, enhancing productivity and collaboration.


  • Compliment is all about words and gestures of appreciation. Think of it as the sweet icing on the cake, making something already good, even better.
  • Complement is about completion and harmony. It’s like the missing piece of the puzzle, the yin to the yang, the cheese to the macaroni (you get the idea!).

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Understanding The Differences Between Compliment And Complement

The primary distinction between “compliment” and “complement” lies in their functions and the nature of the words. While a compliment involves expressing admiration or approval, a “complement” focuses on completing or enhancing something else. The confusion often arises due to their similar pronunciation and the fact that they both contribute positively to a situation, albeit in different ways.

To further illustrate the disparity between these two words, let’s explore additional examples:

  • Compliment:
    • “I must compliment you on your impeccable taste in fashion.”
    • “Her thoughtful comments were a compliment to the team’s efforts.”
  • Complement:
    • “The herbs and spices used in the recipe complement each other perfectly.”
    • “The new software is designed to complement the existing infrastructure seamlessly.”

Contextual Insights

Understanding the appropriate usage of “compliment” and “complement” is crucial for effective communication. Misusing these words may lead to confusion or convey unintended messages. Being mindful of the context and the nature of the message you want to convey will help you choose the right word.

In Professional Settings

In professional environments, offering genuine compliments can contribute to a positive work culture. Recognising and acknowledging the accomplishments of colleagues fosters a supportive atmosphere. On the other hand, understanding how different components of a project or system complement each other is essential for problem-solving and innovation.

Social Interactions

In social interactions, mastering the art of giving and receiving compliments is an invaluable skill. Whether expressing admiration for a friend’s talents or acknowledging someone’s kindness, the right compliment can strengthen relationships. Understanding how personal strengths and traits complement one another also plays a role in forming meaningful connections.

Pro Tip: Remember the “C” rule:

  • Compliment has a “C” for Courtesy. It’s about praising and making others feel good.
  • Complement has two “C”s, like two puzzle pieces connecting. It’s about making something whole.

Frequently Asked Questions

A “compliment” is a kind expression of praise or admiration, while a “complement” refers to something that completes or goes well with something else. Compliments are about admiration, while complements are about enhancing or completing a whole, such as colours or skills that complement each other.

“Compliment” is a noun or verb referring to a polite expression of praise. “Complimentary” is an adjective meaning free or given as a courtesy. For example, a complimentary ticket is a free ticket. While related, they have different parts of speech and meanings in the context of language.

“Complement” refers to something that completes or goes well with something else, while “complementation” typically refers to the relationship between elements that combine to form a complete whole. Complementation often implies a synergistic or interdependent relationship, while complement denotes the enhancing or completing component itself.

An example of a compliment is when someone says, “Your creativity and attention to detail in that project were impressive.” In this case, the compliment expresses admiration for the person’s skills and qualities, offering positive recognition and acknowledgement of their efforts and accomplishments.

A complement enhances, completes, or goes well with something else. It can refer to elements that combine harmoniously in various contexts, such as colours or flavours. In linguistics, complement refers to words or phrases that complete the meaning of a verb or a predicate.

About Alvin Nicolas

Avatar for Alvin NicolasNicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He is a content manager at ResearchProspect. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.