Compliment & Complement…What’s the Difference?

Compliment & Complement…What’s the Difference?

by Steve Gamel
Edit This

I did a grammar-related article a few months ago for one of the many Murray Media publications. Since it turned out to be a popular post, I’ve decided to do another one.

Compliment vs Complement
– What’s the difference?

This is a perfect example of homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. As you can see, compliment is spelled with an “i” and complement is spelled with an “e.” Homophones are strewn throughout the English language and can cause quite a bit of confusion for everyone if you aren’t careful. Some additional examples of homophones include:

  • Bear and Bare
  • Ad and Add
  • Rain, Reign, Rein
  • Damn and Dam
  • Sail and Sale

A compliment is a polite expression of praise or admiration. If you were to tell me that I’m the greatest writer you’ve ever worked with or read, you’d be paying me and my business, Edit This®, an enormous – and possibly overstated – compliment.

When we say complement, we are often referring to something that completes a set. For example (and I totally stole this one from somewhere), you might say, “That scarf is the perfect complement to her outfit.” Or … “When my wife hired someone to paint our new kitchen cabinets, she picked the perfect color to complement our backsplash.”

Hopefully that clears things up.

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