February 1, 2019 All, English Learning, Sneaky Grammar

Complement Vs Compliment – Sneaky Grammar #2

Brand Customer


For the second episode of Sneaky Grammar we present another seemingly simple typo that can change the entire meaning of your sentence. If you write, “They complemented each other”, with an ‘e’, it would mean they worked well together.

Just by changing one ‘e’ to an ‘i’, as in “they complimented each other”,  it would mean they said nice things to each other.

In the video we saw an example of a potential problem in the workplace. Every boss is on alert for sexual harassment, in which case the difference between complement and compliment could be a big deal. You need to be careful when writing your reports to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings. You could save Steve a pretty uncomfortable conversation with his boss.

The same issues could come when pitching to a client. If you want to convey that your team works very well together, you could say they complement each other. Now, if you write they compliment each other your client will think it’s very strange you’re sharing that information.

It can also go the other way. Andrew is a new employee, he’s doing a good job and could use some encouragement. You might write a task for his supervisor “compliment Andrew’s efforts”. Just by changing that to “complement Andrew’s efforts” you’d be asking the supervisor to help Andrew instead. This will make the supervisor waste valuable time, and it will send Andrew the wrong message.

Want more Sneaky Grammar? Here’s the previous episode.

If you found this episode helpful don’t forget to share it. Sneaky Grammar will back soon with a new common misunderstanding for you to avoid. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments section, we’re happy to answer all your grammatical doubts.

Do you have an idea for a great Sneaky Grammar episode? Email us at with the subject “Sneaky Grammar” or tweet your suggestion with #SneakyGrammar.



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