complement and compliment - the difference

Compliment is associated with praise.
Complement is associated with enhancement.

There is often confusion over the words complement and compliment.


A compliment (with an i) is an expression of praise.

  • My compliments to the chef for such a wonderful starter.
  • (my praise to the chefs)
  • When I said your eyes looked misty, I meant that as a compliment.
  • (I meant that as praise)
  • Tell the cook of this restaurant with my compliments that these are the very worst sandwiches in the whole world, and that, when I ask for a watercress sandwich, I do not mean a loaf with a field in the middle of it. (Oscar Wilde)
  • (compliments can also mean good wishes, regards or respect)


A complement (with an e) is something that enhances something else or goes well with it. (For example, cranberry sauce is a complement for turkey.) It is not common, but complement can also mean composition or make-up. (When used, it is often seen in the term full complement, meaning the whole number.)
  • The cashew nuts were an excellent complement for the soup.
  • (cashew nuts went well with the soup)
  • The drums were a perfect complement to their dancing style.
  • (drums enhanced their dancing style)

The Verbs To Compliment and To Complement

The examples above all relate to nouns. However, both words exist as verbs too.
  • I would like to compliment the pilot on such a smooth landing.
  • (pass praise to the pilot)
  • The jade and silver cufflinks complement the green tie.
  • (go well with the green tie)
  • He has worked hard for many years to break my record. I can only complement him for such terrific dedication.
  • (should be compliment - i.e., offer praise to him)

Select the correct version:


  • The word compliment has an i in it – just like praise.
  • The word complement has an e in it – just like enhancement.
  • Do you have a full complement of men for your mission?

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