With some words, one little letter can make the biggest difference. That’s the case when it comes to “compliment” and “complement,” as swapping the “i” for an “e” – or vice versa – can either serve as a way to congratulate or commend someone, or complete someone or something. Another factor that often adds to the confusion between complement and compliment is the fact that the two words sound the same. This post is designed to help you better determine when each term should be used.
A compliment is an expression of praise, congratulations and possibly even admiration. For instance, if you were to say, “I’d like to compliment you on a job well done,” that would be the proper use of the term.
Compliment can serve as either a noun or a verb.
A similar word to compliment is “complimentary.” While many associate this term to mean “free of charge,” as in a complimentary tire rotation, morning breakfast, etc., it can also be used to express other meanings as well. For instance, it can be used to describe if something is favorable and it can also be used as a means of expression.
Complement basically means “to make something whole or complete.” For instance, you could say that ketchup is a perfect complement to mustard. Or you might say that Kevin Durant is a perfect complement to Steph Curry. It’s often a term that describes something made better with or because of something else. It’s also a term that’s commonly used in design. For instance, a sofa might complement other aspects of a room’s decor, like the color it is painted, the carpeting and the other furniture. You wouldn’t, for instance, say that a sofa “compliments” the color of the room because that would mean that it’s congratulating or praising it.
Like compliment, complement also can function as either a noun or a verb.
Compliment vs. Complement: When to Use What
If the definitions that we’ve listed above still don’t make it completely clear when to use what, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when it comes to compliment vs. complement. Generally, if you’re trying to express making something complete, make sure there’s an “e.” But if you want to glorify, make sure that there’s an “i.” Like we said in the opening, one little letter sure can make a big difference.