Grammar: Compliment or Complement?

Lesson 18: Compliment or Complement?


Compliment or complement?

Compliment and complement get confused on the dance floor…

Compliment and complement sound the same and have similar meanings. But once you remember their definitions, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell them apart!


compliment can be a noun, or a thing. It means praise or a nice remark.

  • Example: She gave me a compliment on my new outfit.

To compliment is a verb, or an action. It means to praise, or to make a nice remark.

  • Example: The boss complimented the employee on his hard work.

If you turn it into an adjective, which describes something—complimentary—then it means expressing praise, or free of charge.

  • Example 1: The teacher was very complimentary when he gave me feedback on my project.
  • Example 2: The food on the flight is complimentary, so eat as much as you want!


To complement is (almost always) a verb, or an action. It means to complete something, or make it better in some way. 

  • Example 1: The two singers’ voices complemented one another. What a moving duet they sang!
  • Example 2: The cheese complements the meat. They make a yummy combo!

It can also be used as an adjective, complementary, with the same meaning as the verb form. The adjective is often used to describe foods or colors that go well together.

  • Example: The complementary colors in the photoshoot looked beautiful.