Usage: Compliment or Complement?

Jul 13, 2018 | Posted by Jennifer


Homophones are tricky things. They can trip up even the most astute student. From a young age students work on mastering the difference between to, too, and two, for example, or there, their, and they’re. Homophones (meaning “same sound”) are words that have different meanings and are frequently spelled differently, but sound the same when spoken. Contextually, they are generally easy to understand when heard, but spelling them is where things get a bit tricky.

Two homophones that tend to confuse people are the words compliment and complement. Part of the reason, aside from their very similar spellings, is because the words have related meanings. Let’s start with the word compliment. Google defines the word compliment as “a polite expression of praise or admiration.” Here is an example of the word used in a sentence: Mrs. Smith received a lovely compliment about her homemade cookies.

Now let’s take a peek at the word complement. Google defines this word as “a thing that completes or brings to perfection.” Here is an example of the word used in a sentence: Mrs. Smith’s homemade cookies were a wonderful complement to Mrs. Mauser’s homemade ice cream. In other words, the cookies and the ice cream were a wonderful pairing for the taste buds.

So now that we know the difference between the two words, how can we remember to spell them correctly? After all, both words have positive connotations. One way to recall the difference between the two words that I use is to remember this sentence hint: “I can give or receive a compliment.” Keeping that in mind, spelling the word with the medial i is a lot easier to recall.

So now that compliment and complement are clear, is anyone interested in having a bowl of homemade ice cream and cookies? I will let you select your favorite cookie recipe, but I have a treasured family recipe for ice cream that I have enjoyed since I was a small child. Technically I believe it’s a custard since it uses raw eggs. Back in the good old days, we would have simply cracked the eggs into the mixture, but with today’s awareness of foodborne illness, I suggest you pick up a pasteurized egg product to use instead.

Mrs. Mauser’s Delicious Homemade Ice Cream Recipe
4 eggs beaten well (approximately five minutes)*
2 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 pints heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons vanilla

2–3 cups of rock salt
15 pound bag of ice

Be sure that your container is freshly washed with soap and water. You can put it in the freezer or refrigerator while you mix the ice cream. Mix up the first five ingredients and add to the ice cream container. Put the container into your ice cream mixer. Add a layer of 2–4 inches of ice and pour a portion of the rock salt over that area. Then add another layer of ice. Keep doing this until you have it filled to the lid area. As the mixture freezes, continue to add fresh ice so that the level of ice doesn’t melt down too far.

Keep the ice cream maker turning. If you are using an electric churn, you will hear a noticeable strain to the engine which will be your signal that the ice cream is finished. My machine usually takes about forty-five minutes to finish the process. When you think your machine is finished, pull the plug and clear the ice and salt away from the top of the freezer so that you can check the ice cream. If it’s not quite done, replace the lid and keep turning the ice cream. Add some more ice and rock salt if needed. Once it’s finished, store the ice cream (if there’s any left over!) in a container in the freezer. Enjoy!

* I recommend you use a pasteurized egg product instead of the raw eggs.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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