January 7


What’s the Difference Between Complement vs. Compliment (and Complimentary) – Podcast


Hi everyone, you’re listening to Cambridge Exam Coach, a podcast for people who want to improve their English.

I’m Kristian, your host, and in this episode we’re talking about the difference between complement with an E and compliment with an I.

These two words sound exactly the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. We call these words homophones.

To complement with an E means ‘to go well with something else or to match’.

For example, ‘This tie complements that suit really well’.

Or, ‘The tie and the suit complement each other nicely’.

The Cambridge Dictionary explains it slightly differently. Here it means ‘to make something else seem better or more attractive when combining with it’.

For example, ‘Strawberries and cream complement each other perfectly’.
Or, ‘The music complements her voice perfectly’.

The adjective is complementary. So you can say, ‘Amal and George are complementary’. They are a great match.

Now, let’s look at the other word. The verb ‘To compliment someone (on something)’ means to say something positive to someone, to praise someone.

Again, it’s the same pronunciation, but it’s c-o-m-p-l-i-m-e-n-t.

For example, ‘Everyone complimented her on her pronunciation’. So they said something like ‘Your pronunciation is fantastic’.

The noun is compliment, so you can say ‘to make a compliment’ or ‘to pay a compliment to someone’.

For example, ‘I gave my student a compliment because she works hard.’

The adjective is ‘Complimentary’.

For example, ‘Your employees made many complimentary comments. It seems they loved your leadership style’.

And then, last but not least, complimentary can also mean ‘given free’.

For example, ‘All of our guests receive a complimentary bottle of wine, which is left in their room when they check in’.

So how are you gonna remember this? Well, let’s think about this sentence:

‘I feel good because I got a compliment’. The ‘I’ in ‘I feel good’ matches compliment with an ‘I’.

Does that work work for you? I don’t know, but sometimes you have to think about little tricks to help you remember things.

OK, that’s a wrap. If you didn’t catch everything, just go through the transcript on my website and listen to this again while reading at the same time.

Remember, repetition is the key to improving your English skills.

All right, take care of yourself, and each other, and I’ll speak to you on the podcast soon, but for now it’s time to say bye bye!

About the author 


Kristian is from The Netherlands, but he lives in Prague, Czechia. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam with grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, podcasts or an audiobook.


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