Complimentary v Complementary

I was writing website text for a client and I got thinking about the word complementary. It’s a word that is often mixed up with complimentary. For the website, I wrote:

“This division is divided into two complementary sections…”

(meaning that the sections of the division work really well together)

But complementary and complimentary are two words that confuse a lot of people. I see it all the time where people mistake the ‘i’ and ‘e’ and their sentence ends up with a completely different meaning.


The word with the ‘i’ has two meanings:

1.Giving a compliment or praising someone.

So remember the ‘i’ when using complimentary, e.g.,

Last night I said to my good friend Michelle that the coq au vin she cooked was simply the best I’ve ever tasted.

Another way to say it:

  • I gave Michelle a compliment on her cooking.
  • I complimented her cooking.
  • I was complimentary about her cooking. ‘

2. Something that is free which accompanies something else.

You generally see the word complimentary in restaurants or hotels.

  • Complimentary glass of wine with dinner
  • Complimentary biscuits with every tea at the conference


The word with the ‘e’ has one main meaning.

It means that something goes well with another thing. It completes it. Here are a few examples

  • The consultancy division complements the construction team
  • (Both teams work really well together but can operate on their own)
  • Your shoes are complementary to that dress
  • (Your outfit is complete with the separate items of clothing)

And to re-confirm what I say, check out this little clip from It’s a classic!

About the Author

Denise FayI'm Denise Fay, an international marketing communications advisor. For over 16 years, I've been helping corporations and business owners to promote themselves by communicating the right message with the right audience. They achieve clarity, leads and sales. I'm also an award-winning author, engaging speaker, entrepreneur, business owner and mum of two, I have written copy that has won awards, won clients and most importantly, built relationships. Because at the end of the day, it all comes down to how we relate to others. And writing great copy that engages with your reader is well worth its weight in gold. You too can find wealth in your relationships. I can guide and help you find your words, create an engaging message and build a relationship that results in repeat sales with your customers & leads. Contact me today to get started. Come find me on Google+View all posts by Denise Fay →

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