Compliment vs. Complement


There Is a Difference

By Annette Rey

Avoid an embarrassing mistake. Make the right choice for the meaning you want to convey.

My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary tells me compliment can be used as both a noun and a verb (transitive).

Noun – an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration. Also, a formal and respectful recognition, best wishes.

Verb – to pay a compliment, to present with a token of esteem.

Regina gave a sincere compliment (noun) to John.

Edna complimented (verb) Betty on her written report.


The same dictionary tells me complement can be used as a noun and a verb.

Noun – something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect. And – the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete.

Verb – to be complementary – (don’t you just love those definitions?)

The captain, first mate, and second mate completed the complement (noun) of Jack’s crew. – In this case, complement means the completion of a group.

The fur stole complemented (verb) the starlet’s evening gown. – In this case, complement indicates enhancement.


Is there an easier way to remember which word to use? Well, this is a hint for using compliment. If you use the “i” in the word as meaning I, you can say this: Compliment means something I or someone else is saying or doing. It takes an I, a person, to deliver a compliment.

Whereas, the “e” in complement can stand for the End (to complete) or as Enhancement (to heighten attractiveness).

Spell check will not help you with these words. You need to know the meaning and correct spelling of each word.

Try to remember the I and E hint.

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