When to use "complement"

Of the two, “complement” is closer to in meaning to its Latin root. Remember, the sense of this word is one of enhancing or completing, not of praising.

Also, it takes two to complement. One thing must complement another thing, when being used as a verb.

  • Suzy’s shoes complemented her dress.
  • Mark is shopping for the perfect wine to complement the lasagna he’s making for dinner tonight.
  • The shades of blue and green complement each other nicely in Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Notice, objects complement other objects in these sentences. It’s rare for a person to “complement” something or someone.

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Compliment vs. Complement – Word Counter

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“Complement” and “compliment” are easy to confuse. In fact, they come from the same Latin word, “complementum” which means “something that completes.” However, “complement” came to its meaning through English, while “compliment” evolved through Spanish, Italian, and French use before coming into English.

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“Compliment” can be used as a noun or a verb to mean “an expression of praise.” Think of a compliment as a gift or a present. It’s simply saying something is good in some way.

  • John paid Suzy a nice compliment on her new dress.
  • The piano instructor complimented Mark on his improvement.
  • Her compliment completely turned my day around.

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We can learn from celebrated writers that a good sentence is plain, undecorated and visible. It gets its power from the tension between the ease of its phrasing and the surprise of its thought. Each added word reduces alternatives and narrows the reader's expectations. But up to the last word, the writer can throw a curveball.

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Be polite. The person who gets your letter will seldom be the one who wronged you. And is unlikely to pass it on to the desired recipient if you are insulting and raging.

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