Difference Wiki

Comply vs. Compliance: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 18, 2023
"Comply" is a verb meaning to act in accordance with a request or rule, while "compliance" is a noun referring to the act or state of complying.

Key Differences

Comply is a verb used to describe the act of conforming or adhering to a rule, standard, or demand. When one decides to follow a given set of instructions, they are choosing to comply. In contrast, compliance is the noun form of this action. It denotes the actual adherence or conformance to a rule or standard, often used in regulatory contexts to refer to meeting specific criteria.
When someone is instructed to do something, and they agree to do it, they are choosing to comply with the instruction. This action can be out of respect, fear, duty, or various other reasons. Compliance, on the other hand, goes beyond the immediate action. It encompasses the overall state or behavior of acting in accordance with requirements, standards, or regulations.
In many corporate or official settings, one may be required to comply with particular procedures or guidelines. Here, to comply means to act in a manner that aligns with these set procedures. Compliance in such settings would refer to the systematic practice or process ensuring that actions are consistently in line with the established rules or guidelines.
It's also worth noting that while one can choose to comply or not to comply (indicating an action or decision), compliance suggests a more established or sustained state. For instance, a person may comply with a request on one occasion, but consistent compliance means they are regularly meeting or exceeding the expected standards.
In summary, while both comply and compliance center around the concept of adhering to a rule or standard, comply is the action or decision to follow, and compliance is the state or process of following consistently.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech



To act in accordance with a request or rule
The act or state of acting in accordance with a request, rule, or regulation

Usage Context

Individual actions or decisions
Systems, processes, or overall states


Often denotes a single or immediate act
Indicates a more sustained or established state


Comply with a directive
Ensure compliance with regulations

Comply and Compliance Definitions


To meet specific standards.
The product does not comply with safety guidelines.


A yielding nature or disposition.
Her compliance in difficult situations was admirable.


To act in a way that is desired by others.
The suspect complied with the officer's demands.


The act of conforming to official standards or rules.
The company is in compliance with environmental laws.


To obey another's command, request, or rule.
He complied with the instructions given.


The state of being in agreement or accordance with a wish or command.
His actions showed compliance with the principal's directive.


To act in accordance with another's command, request, rule, or wish
The patient complied with the physician's orders.


The act of obeying; willingness to follow.
The strict compliance to the code is commendable.


(Obsolete) To be courteous or obedient.


Submission or adaptability to a particular request or condition.
They showed compliance by adjusting the production process.


To yield assent; to accord; to acquiesce, agree, consent; to adapt oneself, to conform.


The act of complying with a wish, request, or demand; acquiescence.


(archaic) To accomplish, to fulfil.


(Medicine) Willingness to follow a prescribed course of treatment.


(archaic) To be ceremoniously courteous; to make one's compliments.


A disposition or tendency to yield to the will of others.


(archaic) To enfold; to embrace.


Extension or displacement of a loaded structure per unit load.


To yield assent; to accord; agree, or acquiesce; to adapt one's self; to consent or conform; - usually followed by with.
Yet this be sure, in nothing to comply,Scandalous or forbidden in our law.
They did servilely comply with the people in worshiping God by sensible images.
He that complies against his willIs of his own opinion still.




To be ceremoniously courteous; to make one's compliments.


An act of complying.


To fulfill; to accomplish.


(uncountable) The state of being compliant.


To infold; to embrace.
Seemed to comply,Cloudlike, the daintie deitie.


(uncountable) The tendency of conforming with or agreeing to the wishes of others.


Act in accordance with someone's rules, commands, or wishes;
He complied with my instructions
You must comply or else!
Follow these simple rules
Abide by the rules


(mechanics) A measure of the extension or displacement of a loaded structure; its flexibility


To act according to an order, set of rules, or request.
She was asked to leave and she complied immediately.


(medicine) The accuracy with which a patient follows an agreed treatment plan


To agree tacitly or passively.
While he didn't say yes, he complied by not objecting.


The department of a business that ensures all government regulations are complied with.


The act of complying; a yielding; as to a desire, demand, or proposal; concession; submission.
What compliances will remove dissension?
Ready compliance with the wishes of his people.


A disposition to yield to others; complaisance.
A man of few words and of great compliance.


Acting according to certain accepted standards


Happy friendly agreement


A disposition or tendency to yield to the will of others


The act of submitting; usually surrendering power to another


How is "compliance" used in a corporate context?

In corporations, "compliance" often refers to adhering to regulatory standards and guidelines.

What does "comply" primarily mean?

"Comply" means to act in accordance with a request, rule, or regulation.

Can "comply" be used in everyday conversation?

Yes, "comply" can be used to refer to following any request or rule in daily scenarios.

Is "compliance" always about rules?

No, "compliance" can also refer to meeting certain standards or conditions.

If someone doesn't "comply", what might that mean?

Not complying could mean refusal, inability, or neglect to follow a request or rule.

If someone follows a one-time instruction, did they comply?

Yes, following a one-time instruction means they chose to comply.

What's a synonym for "compliance" in a regulatory context?

"Adherence" is a synonym often used for regulatory compliance.

Can "compliance" be a personal trait?

Yes, it can refer to a person's disposition to yield or adapt, indicating agreeability.

Can "comply" be passive in nature?

Yes, one can comply by not acting or by tacit agreement.

Is "compliance" just about following rules?

While often about rules, "compliance" can also be about meeting standards, expectations, or conditions.

How can "compliance" relate to health?

"Compliance" in health can refer to patients following medical advice or treatment plans.

Can "comply" be used in legal contexts?

Yes, to "comply" can mean to act according to legal requirements or court orders.

How do "comply" and "obey" differ?

Both mean to follow rules or commands, but "comply" often has a more voluntary connotation.

Can a company claim "compliance" based on one instance of following rules?

No, "compliance" generally suggests a consistent state or behavior, not a single instance.

Is "compliance" always positive?

Not necessarily. Blind compliance, for instance, might be seen as negative if it lacks critical thinking.

Can a business have a "compliance" department?

Yes, many businesses have compliance departments to ensure they meet regulatory standards.

Is "compliance" only a modern term?

No, while often used in modern regulatory contexts, "compliance" as a concept of adhering to standards or rules is age-old.

How might a teacher use "comply" in a classroom?

A teacher might ask students to comply with classroom rules or specific instructions.

Can you "comply" without knowing it?

Yes, one can unintentionally comply with norms or unwritten rules.

Is it correct to say, "comply to" or "comply with"?

It's usually "comply with" when referring to following rules or directives.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
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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