Compliment vs. complement

Miss, those bunny ears really complement your attitude.

Miss, those bunny ears really complement your attitude.

 

compliment (noun): an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration
compliment (verb): to express esteem, respect, affection, or admiration to

complement (noun): something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect
complement (verb): to complete or enhance by providing something additional
—Merriam-Webster

Compliment and complement sound the same but are spelled differently, so it’s easy to get the two confused in your writing. Additionally, they can both be a noun and a verb.

Let’s discuss which spelling belongs to which word. Then we’ll learn a way to remember the two spellings.

compliment
Compliment as a verb is when you say something nice. The noun compliment is the nice thing you say.

Examples:
The rat complimented the mouse’s snazzy sneakers. (verb)
The rat’s compliment made the mouse smile. (noun)

complement
The verb complement means to complete. The noun complement means something that completes.

Examples:
The mouse’s sneakers complemented his outfit. (verb)
The sneakers were the perfect complement to his outfit. (noun)

How to remember the spellings
Complement sort of looks like the word complete, and it means to complete. Think complement = complete, and note that both words have an E in the middle (rather than an I).

Quiz
Fill in the blanks below with compliment or complement. The answers are below.

1. The jagged scar across Rupert’s eye _______s his scary guy look.
2. The expensive car was the _______ to her “perfect” life.
3. Tina _______ed her by saying, “You look hotter than a dead raccoon in the afternoon sun.”
4. Hilda hoped she would get an A on the test, which would _______ her semester’s perfect grades.
5. The suitor’s _______ was her favorite part of their date.

Answers:
1. complement 2. complement 3. compliment 4. complement 5. compliment

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