Friday, April 17, 2009

To Compliment or to Complement: That Is the Question

Most of us know the difference between compliment and complement, but do you ever have to stop and think which to use?

 The two meanings, of course, are quite different. To complement is to add to something or to complete something, as in “His new necktie complements his suit.” To compliment is to admire or praise, as in “I complimented him on his new necktie.”

 There is a similar difference, of course, between complementary and complimentary.  One would say, “She purchased a coat with a complementary hat and scarf.” However, if the hat and scarf were gifts from the merchant, we would say, “She purchased the coat, but the hat and scarf were complimentary.”

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