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'Compliment' Versus 'Complement'

Do you get confused when trying to spell compliment (or is it complement)? Here's a memory trick to help you remember the difference.

By
Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

It can be difficult to remember the two spellings and meanings of the words we pronounce as "compliment." They’re homophones—one is spelled with an i and the other is spelled with an e, and even though they sound the same, they mean different things.

Compliment

A compliment, with an i, is a kind or flattering remark. If a friend says he likes your new shoes, he’s giving you a compliment. He’s complimenting you.

Complement

A complement, with an e, is a full crew or a set, and when something complements something else, it means they go well together. You might talk about a picture frame that complements a photo or the crew complement needed to operate a ship.

A Trick to Remember the Difference

To remember the difference between the spellings of these words, be a nice person and tell yourself

I like to give compliments.

Put the emphasis on the I when you say or think it. The I can remind you that the type of flattering compliment is spelled with an i

 

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.