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Complement vs. Compliment: What’s the Difference?

From grammar and punctuation to spelling and vocabulary, the complexities surrounding the English language can be difficult to digest. While several linguists and experts alike have unfolded its functions, there remain certain kinks and crinkles that are hard to iron out. Consider the words “compliment” and “complement” and their similar, yet contrasting meanings.

Misusing “compliment” and “complement” is a common mistake – however, a precise breakdown of these seemingly fraternal pairings will surely resolve your confusion.

Historically, these two words have the same etymology, hence why it’s no coincidence that both the spelling and meanings share similarities. Complement used to mean to compliment, but that definition has become obsolete.

First, let’s evaluate the word “compliment,” which most people know and love! A symphony of verbal expression, which coats a sentence with flattering remarks, praise, and admiration–who doesn’t fancy a compliment? I can give you a compliment right now: because you’re reading this article, I sense you have a strong, keen intellect.

Now, how I’ve come to understand the word “complement” was to use it in a context where something has been completed or perfected, or pairs well with the subject. For example, Larry’s limo complements Gwen’s red gown. The limo, in question, completes Gwen’s outfit.

Hopefully, this short, informative piece taught you something new or cleared any prior confusion pertaining to the exhaustive English language. Being able to speak a language is important, but it is far more enriching to understand the intricacies that fall under the day-to-day words we use.

[Source: Grammarly; Merriam-Webster]

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