Compliment vs. Complement
The confusion between these two words is so common! There are a few of reasons for this:
- The words are one letter off, so it could just be a spelling mistake.
- Both can be a noun or a verb
- These two words SEEM similar in meaning because they both have positive connotations, but they are actually quite different.
So, let’s take a look at these and tease out the nuances of both.
As a verb, this means “to say something nice about another” (as a noun, it is the nice thing that is said). Some examples would be:
- Your new haircut really suits you.
- The work Suzahn did on that project was stellar.
- John is such a hard worker.
All of these sentences contain compliments, to you, Suzahn, and John, respectively.
The adjective form is “complimentary.” An example would be:
- People who are overly complimentary often seem insincere. (These people say a lot of nice things directly to the people they are about.)
As a verb, this means “to enhance, make complete, or accompany” (and, as a noun, it is the thing enhancing, completing, or accompanying). Some examples would be:
- Cinnamon is an excellent complement to apples. (Cinnamon enhances apples.)
- John’s ability to look at the big picture really complements Suzahn’s attention to details. (John’s abilities complete Suzahn’s, and vice versa)
And, the adjective form is “complementary”, as shown here:
- Blue and orange are complementary colors. (They complete and enhance each other.)
As you can see, these are really quite different in meaning!