The Red Pen: “Compliment” vs. “Complement”

We Need to Talk About Grammar is a weekly feature in which I complain about grammatical mistakes I encounter all too often. Feel free to commiserate below, and check out the archives here!

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Real life example!

This is one I run into pretty often; I wonder if people don’t actually realize that “complement” is a word. Most of the time, it seems people often use “compliment” when they should use “complement,” but I rarely see it mistaken the other way around.

Compliment – An expression of praise or admiration, i.e. “She complimented my organization of the pantry.” (Or a verb meaning “to express praise or admiration.”)

Complement – Something that completes something else or makes it better. (Or a verb meaning “to complete or make something better.”) See the photo above: it should have read “complement your steak”—unless, of course, the restaurant intends for its patrons to tell the steak how pretty it looks, which seems unlikely.

A good way to remember the difference is that complement means, basically, to complete something.

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6 thoughts on “The Red Pen: “Compliment” vs. “Complement”

  1. Oh, goodness. My students just gave me such a strange look due to busting out laughing at your fabulous picture find.

    • Hahaha glad you enjoyed it! I was so annoyed when I found that on the menu. Less annoyed, even, than I was when the food wasn’t all that good.

    • I did too! It was all I could do not to point it out to the waitress (not that she could have done anything about it, but still haha)!

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