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Complementary vs Complimentary

8 December 2021

What is the difference between Complementary and Complimentary?

Complementary and complimentary may be spelt quite similarly, but their definition cannot be more different. This is a fact that even native speakers of the English language are mostly unaware of. So these two terms cannot be used interchangeably.


The adjective “complementary” – with an “e” in the second syllable – means serving to complete or supply mutual needs. Two or more parts that come together to make a better whole are called complementary.

Complementary objects go together: pen and paper, needle and thread, horse and carriage, bow and arrow, cheese and wine.

Complementary is used to describe separate elements that are perfect when they are together. It can also be something that makes another aspect better or more agreeable. This adjective can be used to refer to people, animals, objects, or concepts:

She wore a dress with a complementary pair of shoes.

The above example indicates that the pair of shoes matches the dress and enhances its quality by emphasising it.

They are a good couple. They are complementary to
one another.

The above example indicates that the people in question mutually benefit one another thereby mutually supplying each other’s lack.


The adjective “complimentary” (with an “i” in the second syllable) is derived from the noun “compliment”. The term complimentary can be defined as expressing praise or admiration towards something or someone. It can also mean something given free as a courtesy or favour. For example,

The book received complimentary reviews.

The above sentence indicates that the book was well received praised by the audience.

He was very complimentary towards her throughout
the evening.

The above sentence indicates that the person spoken of had been paying compliments to the lady in question throughout the evening.

This basket of fruit was given complimentary with the

The above sentence indicates that by the above gesture, the quality of service rendered by the hotel was enhanced.

Curious about other ways of saying complimentary? 

How about:

What about you? Do you have a pair of confusing words that you want to clarify? Why don’t you share them with me and the English Connection community in the comments section below! 

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