“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

Compliment vs. Complement: How Are They Homophones?

To begin, we need to recognize these two words in the English language as homophones, which means they sound the same but are spelled differently, and have unique definitions. Other examples of homophones are ate vs. eight and bare vs. bear. Looking at compliment and complement, remember the first word is typically used more often. That’s a good start at knowing which word selection to choose.

From there, things get a bit more complicated. Both words can be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun, they represent an idea, whereas when used as a verb, they indicate taking action.

Coming from the same Latin root word, these words used to be more similar in meaning than they are now. Over time, language continues to evolve, with a number of words being defined differently (ranging from subtle to radical changes) than they were in the past.

When Should I Use Complement vs. Compliment?

According to Grammarly, one way to recognize the difference is to recognize that “complement” looks very similar to “complete.” As we’ll see below, that idea of completeness is actually part of the word’s definition.

A compliment, on the other hand, can be remembered as something “I” do. It even has “I” in the middle of the word. Whether you give it or receive it, “I” can be involved in a compliment.

What Does Compliment Mean?

As a noun, a compliment is a polite mention of something praiseworthy about a person or thing. As in using your very best manners. In the verb form, one gives a compliment away.


What Does Complement Mean? 

Complement, in noun form, means to complete something, improve on it or even make perfect. You can find complement as a defined term in grammar, science and mathematics. As a verb, it’s the action of making something complete.

How Do You Use Complement in a Sentence? 

Again, remember complement is related to completing something.

  • The scarf was a perfect complement to her coat.
  • It’s good to complement a glass of cold milk with a cookie.
  • The blue in her sweater really complements her eyes.
  • That couple complements one another well, bringing out the good in the other person.

How Do You Use Compliment in a Sentence? 

Keeping in mind the “I” in compliment, note the giving and receiving in the sentences that follow.

Here are a few examples:

  • People are more confident after receiving compliments.
  • Please compliment Jane on her singing voice.
  • Dad complimented my hard work on that assignment.
  • She compliments her students all the time.

Just When You’re Feeling Confident

Hopefully, the difference between complement and compliment is a little bit more clear. The English language will keep you humble, though. When you consider these words as adjectives, complementary and complimentary, their meanings change ever so slightly, and expand a little, again.

Complimentary is “giving a compliment” or a “favorable response,” but it can also mean “free” as in a complimentary cup of coffee at a place of business.

Complementary means enhancing or highlighting in a positive way. Medically speaking, it’s further treatment or alternative supplements offered alongside what is considered traditional Western medicine (ie. acupuncture, herbal remedies). 


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