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Complement vs. Supplement: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 25, 2023
A complement completes something, making it whole, while a supplement adds to something, enhancing or improving it.

Key Differences

Complement and supplement, though often confused, have distinct meanings. A complement is something that completes or goes perfectly with something, ensuring that it feels whole. On the other hand, a supplement is an addition meant to enhance, improve, or augment something that already exists.
For example, in a meal, the sauce can complement the dish by making its flavors more vibrant and complete. However, a vitamin taken alongside the meal acts as a supplement, providing additional nutrients that the meal might lack.
In terms of grammar, complement refers to words or phrases that are necessary to complete the meaning of a sentence. Conversely, a supplement in written material can be an additional section added to a book or document, providing further information or clarification.
Complement can also refer to the right amount or quantity that makes something complete, like complementing a team with the final player. Whereas, in retail, a supplement might be an extra product or service sold in addition to the main item to enhance its value.
Furthermore, colors can complement each other when they bring out the best in one another. On the contrary, a magazine might release a supplement, an additional publication focusing on a specific topic or event.

Comparison Chart

Basic Meaning

Completes or goes perfectly with something.
An addition to enhance or improve.

In Meals

Enhances a dish's flavors.
Provides additional nutrients.

In Grammar/Writing

Necessary to complete the meaning of a sentence.
Additional section in a book or document.

In Quantity/Amount

The right amount making something complete.
Extra product or service enhancing value.

In Publishing/Media

Colors that enhance each other.
Additional publication on a specific topic.

Complement and Supplement Definitions


A word or words that are required to complete the meaning of an expression.
In the sentence She is a doctor, a doctor is the complement.


A part added to a book or paper, often providing more information.
The newspaper released a supplement focusing on travel.


Colors that produce a neutral color when combined.
Blue and orange are complements in color theory.


To enhance the quality or value of something.
He supplements his income by freelancing.


Something that completes or brings to perfection.
Her shoes were the perfect complement to her dress.


An additional component that enhances or improves.
She purchased a warranty as a supplement to her new phone.


A quantity or amount that completes something.
We hired two more members as a complement to our team.


Something added to complete, extend, or strengthen the whole.
She takes a vitamin supplement every morning.


Something that fills up or completes.
The wine was a wonderful complement to the cheese.


An extra element or amount.
He used the bonus as a supplement to his savings.


Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection
A sauce that is a fine complement to fish.


Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.


How does a supplement function?

A supplement adds to or enhances something that already exists.

Is a supplement always physical?

No, it can be intangible, like supplementing knowledge or income.

What does complement typically mean?

Complement refers to something that completes or pairs perfectly with something else.

Can complement refer to colors?

Yes, complementary colors enhance each other when paired.

Is a supplement always necessary?

No, it's an addition, often optional, to enhance or improve something.

Are supplements in newspapers always longer?

No, they can be shorter, focusing on specific topics.

Are complement and compliment interchangeable?

No, while "complement" means to complete, "compliment" means to praise.

Can two people be a complement to each other?

Yes, if their qualities or skills complete or enhance one another.

Why might someone release a book supplement?

To provide additional information, context, or updates.

How do you use complement in a sentence?

"The jewelry was a perfect complement to her dress."

In grammar, what's a complement?

It's words or phrases needed to complete the meaning of a sentence.

Can shoes complement an outfit?

Absolutely, if they complete or enhance the look of the outfit.

Can food supplements replace meals?

Generally, no. They're meant to add to, not replace, regular nutrition.

Can one's skills complement another's?

Yes, if they complete or enhance the team's overall skill set.

Is a complement always positive?

Typically, yes, as it completes or enhances something in a positive manner.

Can you supplement your salary?

Yes, by earning additional income from other sources.

What's the purpose of a dietary supplement?

To provide nutrients that might be missing from one's diet.

Do complementary colors clash?

No, they enhance each other's visual appeal.

What could be a supplement in a magazine?

An additional section or insert on a specific topic.

Why might one need a supplement?

To add to or enhance something, be it nutrition, knowledge, or another area.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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