Complement - compliment

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Complement and compliment form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. Both are pronounced IPA: /ˈkɒm plə (or ɪ) mənt/

  • A compliment, or a complimentary remark, is something you say to someone ('pay someone a compliment') when you want to praise or congratulate them or to express admiration: 'What a nice dress!', 'That's very clever', 'You played very well', etc.
Sometimes complimentary means 'free': e.g. complimentary tickets. These are things given because of the high esteem in which the giver holds the recipient. (Or not - sometimes they are merely an advertising gimmick!)
  • A complement, or a complementary thing, is something that completes something else (a clue to remembering may be found in the spellings: both start comple-). For example, a ship's complement is her crew; one might say that an assignment has a complementary Guide to experimental techniques; yin is complementary to yang.

In grammar a complement is one of the structural elements of a clause. See Complement (grammar) for more detailed information.