Recently at ESL Library we’ve been hard at work creating our second Detective Series. In one of the lessons, head writer Tara Benwell included an exercise on compliment and complement, and she pointed out how to tell them apart. I thought this pair of commonly confused words would also make a great blog post since English language learners might have a hard time keeping these homophones straight. (And to find out what homonyms, homophones, and homographs are, read the blurb at the end of this post!)
|Definition:||a positive remark, something nice that was said about someone or something|
|Definition:||to say something nice about someone or something|
|Definition:||something that matches or goes well with another thing|
|Definition:||to match or go well with another thing|
Think of the “e” in complement as “extra” (one thing complements another, extra thing).
Did you know that even the adjective and adverb forms of these two words look and sound the same?
|Compliment (n, v)||Complement (n, v)|
|Complimentary (adj)||Complementary (adj)|
|Complimentarily (adv)||Complementarily (adv)|
The meanings of the adjectives and adverbs are similar to the noun/verb meanings, but it’s worthwhile mentioning to students that another common meaning of the adjective complimentary is “free, no charge.” (E.g., Complimentary breakfast is served every day at the hotel.)
Homonyms, Homophones & Homographs
Homonyms are words that have the same pronunciation and/or spelling but different meanings, such as left (the opposite of right) and left (the past tense of leave). Homonyms include homophones and homographs.
Homophones are words with the same pronunciation but different meanings and/or spelling, such as to, too, and two.
Homographs are words with the same spelling but different meanings and/or pronunciation, such as bow (a position where one bends over at the waist) and bow (a wooden weapon that is used to shoot arrows).
Compliment and complement are homonyms. Specifically, they are homophones because they are both pronounced /ˈkɑm plə ˌmənt/ even though they are spelled differently and have different meanings.