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Question

Dear Professor Puzzler,

What is the difference between the words "compliment" and "complement"? Do they mean the same thing?

From, Lizzie in Sacramento

Answer

Dear Lizzie,

The word "compliment" is what you call it when someone says something nice about someone. The word "complement" is used to describle something that completes something else. In mathematics, "complementary" is used to describe angles that add up to a right angle when put together. You may also hear the term "complimentary" used to describe something, and that generally means it is something that is free, in other words, given "with our compliments."

  • Megan gave me a very nice compliment about the color of my earrings.
  • My spouse and I complement each other very well.
  • We greatly enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the hotel this morning.

Sincerely,

Professor Puzzler

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