Complimentary vs. Complementary

Watching TV today while trying to catch up on the backlog of emails I have for the podcast, I saw the following commercial:

It’s a commercial (a site I am not familiar with), and seeing it made me think that I should write to explain the difference between the two words complimentary and complementary, as they are one of many pairs of words in English that are pronounced the same, but spelled and used differently.

Complimentary (with an “i”) has two main uses. It stems from “compliment”, which is when you praise someone or something. “John complimented my new kitchen.”¬†This sentence shows that John likes the new kitchen, and said something nice about it, called a compliment, and thus he was being complimentary. The other use of complimentary, the “i” version, is to mean something is free, usually in a restaurant or a hotel or such. For example, at many Mexican restaurants in America, you receive complimentary chips and salsa with any meal. At a hotel, you will probably find complimentary soap and shampoo in the bathroom.

The other complementary (with an “e”), is used differently. It is used to say that one person or thing goes with or works well with another person or thing. For example, “Your purse complements your blouse.” This means the purse and the blouse look nice together, they go together. Another example, “This wine really complements the veal.” This means that the wine tastes very good with the veal, they work well together. ¬†Another usage of the “e” version of complementary is a bit less common, but still important. “This aircraft has a complement of 7 crew members and 1 pilot.” The usage is similar, it means that the aircraft has 7 crew members and 1 pilot with it.

Back to the commercial I saw. Here is the dialog used:

Guest: “You even charged me for…the complimentary bottle of water!”

Hotel: “It’s complementary, with an ‘e.’ The water complements the room, it’s not free.”

Hopefully that will help distinguish the two words — unfortunately, you will see native speakers using the wrong one sometimes, but just keep in mind the meanings! If you have questions about specific examples, post them in the comments.

The idea of blogging

(this is mostly just an example of a post in English)

So what am I supposed to talk about on my blog? That is the question that I suppose pretty much all bloggers go through at the beginning. It would be easy for me to just ramble about different subjects that interesting me, but because this is the AnglaisBlog, should I limit myself to subjects that might help people learning English? Or do I talk about anything? I suppose we’ll just have to see what happens, I will probably try several topics before deciding on how to do this. Leave your opinions below, if you so desire.

Oh, and this whole “category” thing — I’m not really sure about the efficiency of it, I would worry that I was leaving something out and thus of course run the entire system. I love the example category tags, too — “chat, nourriture pour animaux, chien” — the people who wrote this must have the world’s most fascinating blogs, lol…so I suppose I will try to do this whole “tagging” thing, but we’ll see how it goes.

I recently decided to add another podcast to the ones I regularly listen to, that being Astronomy Cast. There are several podcasts that I regularly listen to, and I am always trying new ones, too, to see how I like them. The thing about finding a new podcast, though, is that sometimes you end up with so much stuff to listen to! Some podcasts are based on news or current events, so it’s just fine to start listening to them with the most recent episode and only listen to new ones after that, ignoring the old episodes. But some podcasts, on the other hand, have nothing to do with news or other sujects where the date is important (such as Apprendre l’anglais or any other language-teaching podcast), and this is the case with Astronomy Cast. So now I have maybe 75 old episodes that I really want to listen to, and at roughly 25 minutes each, that’s a lot to listen to! Does anyone else have that problem? Or does everybody else just listen to podcasts starting with the newest episodes? Actually, I know that’s not true. I get lots of emails where people say something like “I just got to lesson 5” or whatnot. So it must not be just me. Quite the relief :p

And one last random note — lots of podcasts use some word in their name to indicate that they are a podcast — AnglaisPod or Astronomy Cast for example. I wonder, though, what makes one choose “pod” or “cast” over the other option? Makes you wonder…

(But for the record, I use “pod” because it’s the same as other language podcasts I listen to —, chinesepod, learnitalianpod, the french pod class, etc…)

Oh, and anyone who blogs, especially if you use wordpress — any idea why my name doesn’t show up as the author? I expect it to say “par Thomas” or something…