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Compose vs. Comprise: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 23, 2023
"Compose" means to form by putting together parts or elements, while "comprise" means to consist of or include; "compose" is active, "comprise" is passive.

Key Differences

"Compose" is used when referring to the act of creating or forming something from various parts, whereas "comprise" indicates what is contained within something.
When using "compose," the parts typically come after the verb, as in "The committee is composed of members." In contrast, with "comprise," the whole comes first, as in "The committee comprises members."
"Compose" is often followed by "of," for example, "A team composed of experts." On the other hand, "comprise" is direct, like in "The team comprises experts."
"Compose" leans towards an active construction, implying the action of putting together, while "comprise" is more passive, suggesting a state of including or containing.
A common error is using "comprised of," which is incorrect. "Composed of" is the correct form. "Comprise" should be used as is, without "of."

Comparison Chart


To form by assembling parts
To consist of, to include


Active, involves creation
Passive, describes what is included

Grammatical Structure

Typically followed by "of"
Used directly without "of"

Sentence Example

"The album was composed by the artist."
"The album comprises ten tracks."

Common Error

Correct: "composed of"
Incorrect: "comprised of"

Compose and Comprise Definitions


To create or form by putting together parts or elements.
She composed a beautiful symphony.


To consist of; to be made up of.
The committee comprises five members.


To calm or settle, as in composing one's thoughts.
He composed himself before the speech.


To include, contain, or encompass.
The course comprises various subjects.


To create a written or musical work.
She composed a poem for the occasion.


To embody or represent as a part.
The collection comprises rare artifacts.


To be or constitute a part or element of.
Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen.


To be an essential part in forming something.
Integrity comprises a key part of their values.


To arrange aesthetically or artistically.
The photographer composed the shot meticulously.


To form or constitute.
The book comprises three parts.


To make up the constituent parts of; constitute or form
An exhibit composed of French paintings.
The many ethnic groups that compose our nation. See Usage Note at comprise.


To be composed of or contain
The staff comprises eight physicians, two dozen nurses, and various administrative people.


To make or create by putting together parts or elements.


Usage Problem To compose; make up; constitute
The countries and territories that comprised the British Empire.


(transitive) To be made up of; to consist of (especially a comprehensive list of parts).
The whole comprises the parts.
The parts are comprised by the whole.


Can "compose" and "comprise" be used interchangeably?

No, they have different meanings and grammatical uses.

Is "comprised of" correct?

No, "comprised of" is incorrect. Use "composed of" or "comprises."

Can "comprise" be followed by "of"?

No, "comprise" should not be followed by "of."

What does "comprise" indicate in a sentence?

It indicates what elements are included in the whole.

Can a single element "compose" a whole?

No, "compose" implies multiple elements forming a whole.

What does it mean to compose music?

It means to create or write music.

Is "compose" only used in music and writing?

No, it can also refer to creating or forming anything from parts.

Is "compose" formal or informal?

It can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

Is "comprise" a common verb?

Yes, it's commonly used in formal and descriptive contexts.

Does "comprise" always start a sentence?

No, but it often leads in a sentence to describe the whole.

Can "comprise" be used in past tense?

Yes, like "The book comprised three sections."

Is "composed of" used for physical or abstract things?

It can be used for both, like "composed of elements" or "ideas."

Can "comprise" be used for hypotheticals?

Yes, it can describe components of a hypothetical whole.

Can "compose" be used in a psychological context?

Yes, like in "composing oneself" which means to become calm.

Does "comprise" imply a total sum?

Yes, it refers to everything that constitutes a whole.

Is it correct to say "a team comprising of players"?

No, the correct phrase is "a team comprising players."

Is "compose" a synonym for "create"?

Yes, in the context of creating art, music, or literature.

Is "composing a letter" a correct usage?

Yes, it means to write a letter.

Can "compose" mean to settle emotionally?

Yes, as in calming oneself or gaining composure.

Can "comprise" refer to an incomplete set?

No, it refers to all parts that make up the whole.
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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