Are You Confusing These Words?
Written by
Maria Murnane
January 2017
Written by
Maria Murnane
January 2017

The following words are super easy to confuse with each other, so here's a quick explanation of the difference:

Complement/Compliment, Complementary/Complimentary

To complement (verb)is to complete or make whole

  • That necklace really complements your outfit

complement (noun) is something that completes or makes whole

  • That necklace is a great complement to your outfit

To be complementary (adjective)is to go well with something, to serve to complete

  • That necklace is complementary to your outfit

To compliment (verb) is to offer flattery

  • Thanks so much for complimenting me on my outfit

compliment (noun) is a flattering comment

  • Your compliment about my outfit made me feel good

To be complimentary (adjective)isto be free of charge orto be expressing praise

  • An open bar means the drinks are complimentary
  •  He loved your book and wrote a complimentary review


To elicit (verb) is to bring out

  • I hope my new book elicits both tears and laughter from my readers

To be illicit (adjective) is to be unlawful or not morally acceptable

  • She could no longer trust her fiancé after she found out he had repeatedly engaged in illicit activity, so she called off their wedding


Forward (adjective) is to be near or at the front of something, or to be somewhat brash

  • First class baggage always goes in the forward overhead bins
  •  Some may say she's a bit forward for their taste, but I love how she always speaks her mind

foreword (noun) is a message at the beginning of a book that is written by someone other than the author

  • I was thrilled when my good friend Gloria offered to write the foreword to my new book about grammar

Which words do you find easy to get mixed up? Please let me know in the comments!


Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services to aspiring and published authors. Have questions? You can find her at


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2017 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • further/farther  (I know generally that "farther" is a length and "further" is a process, but:  "I have a bit farther/further? to go in understanding the difference!)

    Thanks for your posts!  You're the Grammar Guru!

  • Vivienne Diane Neal

    Thank you for sharing. 

  • Maria Murnane

    @Lisa you're welcome! That is great to hear! :)

  • Lisa Thomson

    Great reminder! Thanks Maria. I just misused complement. I have corrected it now that i've read this :)