Compliment vs Complement
“Wow, you ran a great meeting today!”
Was that a Compliment or a Complement? (It was a compliment.)
Spoken, both words sound the same: “KAHM-pluh-munt”
In writing, however, “compliment” has an “i” in the middle, and complement has an “e.”
The spelling difference is subtle but the meanings and usage are quite distinct:
As a noun and verb, “compliment” is used to show admiration or praise to another person. “Compliment” can also be used with “give” and “take (something) + as.”
- “My compliments to you on your talk today – it was so interesting!”
- My colleague complimented me on my speech today.
- If someone gives you a compliment, all you usually need to say is, “thank you!”
- “You’re too nice!” Dan said. Laura replied, “Should I take that as a compliment or an insult?”
(noun and verb; there are other meanings but this is the most common)
A complement is something that completes something else:
- Cream is the perfect complement to my morning cup of dark-roasted coffee.
- The brilliant rainbow was a lovely complement to the afternoon thunderstorm.
- My brothers really complement each other: Jeff is loves to read and Tommy is an athlete.
Cultural Note: The 1955 Frank Sinatra song, “Love and Marriage” are complements in the opening line: “Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” In the 1960s, the same tune and theme of complements was used in a Campbell’s soup commercial: “Soup and sandwich, soup and sandwich. Have your favorite Campbell’s soup and sandwich any time or weather — soup and sandwich go together!”