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.

Compliment

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

Examples:

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)

Complement

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 LETTERS CAN HELP YOU REMEMBER 

The word compliment has an i in it – just like praise.

The word complement has an e in it – just like enhancement.
 
 
COMPLEMENT ALSO MEANS COMPOSITION OR MAKE-UP 

Do you have a full complement of men for your mission?
 



See also:

Glossary of easily confused words
Glossary of common errors
Glossary of grammatical terms
What are nouns?
What are verbs?