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Spelling: complement and compliment

24 Jan 2017

An occasional series of posts about words the trap the unwary.

Complement (v. and n.) – to enhance or add extra features to make something better. 

That tomato sauces complements my dinner.
Your new purple hat is the perfect complement to your ball gown.

Complement (n.) – the number needed to complete a group.

We have a full complement at the moment. Couldn't jam another sailor in if you tried.

Compliment (v.) – say something nice about someone. And this is the word to use if you’re thinking of ‘compliment slips’.

May I compliment you on your choice of purple hat and ball gown?

Complimentary (adj.) – free of charge.

Here’s your complimentary moist towelette.

Get it right

There's a ‘lime’ in the middle of the ‘saying something nice’ and ‘free gift’ compliment, so perhaps you can fix in your head the idea of praising a small green citrus fruit which someone has given you for free.