Compliment vs Complement – Which One Should I Use And When?

Both Compliment and Complement are similar in both spelling and meaning, so it’s easy to see why get so many of us in a muddle. Let’s look at the difference between Compliment vs Complement and then I’ll take you through some examples so you can use both words confidently.

A compliment is when you say something kind or flattering to someone.

To complement means to complete or perfect something. 

Both words stem from the Latin word complere, which translates to “complete” and both words demonstrate admiration, so which one should you use and when?

Let’s look at complement and compliment in more detail.

What Is A Compliment?

Compliments are nice things that you might say about someone. For example:

“Your hair looks good.”

“That dress looks great on you.”

“You are brilliant.”

“Your speech was inspirational.”

“You are such a caring person.”

“I was told I was a lovely person and I blushed at the compliment.”

A compliment is a kind, positive thing to say to someone to praise or flatter. A compliment is a nice comment made to another person and doesn’t require another component.

What Is A Complement?

If something complements, it means it goes well with something else. For example:

“That colour complements your eyes.”

“The new decor complements the room.”

“You and your partner make a great team. You complement each other.”

The word complement can be used in other ways too. To complement means that something completes something else. It can complete something by bringing an improvement of some sort, for example:

“That tie perfectly complements your shirt.”

“Those shoes complement that handbag perfectly.”

The word complement can also indicate the completion of something by filling a need, and fulfilling what is lacking, for example:

“The ship will run smoothly with its full complement of personnel.”

“The team will do well this year with its full complement of players.”

“The restaurant can run at capacity now it has a full complement of staff.”

The word complement is also used in mathematics. Here, complement adds something by completing or enhancing it.

How To Remember The Difference And Make It Stick

With both words being so close in spelling and meaning here are a few key things to help you to remember which is which.

What makes them similar:

  • Compliment and complement are homophones. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings

Complement vs. Compliment: What sets them apart:

Let’s start with complement:

  • Complement is spelt with an e
  • To complement means to add or enhance something
  • Think of the word “complete’ as the spelling reminds you to use the all-important e instead of i and reminds you of its meaning – to complete something.

 Now let’s look at compliments:

  • A compliment is spelt with an i.
  • To compliment means to say something kind or offer praise to another person.
  • Think of i to remind you of the correct spelling, for example, “I said something kind” or “I received a compliment.


It isn’t as daunting as you might think to use complement and compliment with confidence using these easy-to-remember pointers.

A compliment is when you say something kind or flattering to someone.

To complement means to complete or perfect something. 

Know you understand the difference in the meaning, you need to remember the correct spelling. I got it to stick in my head by thinking of the word complete to remind me to use the e and the meaning behind it.

I remember compliment by thinking that “I gave someone a compliment” or “I received a compliment” again, this trick gives you both the correct vowel and the meaning.

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About Gemma Wright

I'm Gemma Wright, co-owner of ProCopyTips and a freelance PR consultant and copywriter. Having worked as a PR Manager for large financial services companies in the UK, I now focus on helping small and growing businesses to thrive through the power of effective communications.

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