The Grammar Nerd

Helping you to get it right.

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Past vs. Passed, Compliment vs. Complement, Farther vs. Further

For this article I chose topics that cause me to pause whenever I encounter them in writing or speaking. I have to stop and think about the rule before proceeding. I hope that these reviews will be helpful for you as well.

Past vs. Passed

Past can be used as several different parts of speech:

Noun: a previous time: That was in the past.

Preposition: beyond: She walked past the park. He went right past me.

Adjective: ago: I have been studying for the past six hours.

Passed is the past tense and past participle of the verb, pass. We passed them on the road. I have passed that exit every time.

Compliment vs. Complement

Compliment is both a noun and a verb. It indicates the offering of praise, flattery, admiration or congratulation. She received several compliments on her performance. I complimented the speaker on his presentation.

It can also be an adjective, as complimentary, where it means free. The training program included a complimentary copy of the book.

Complement is also a noun, a verb and an adjective, but its meaning is very different. It means to complete, go well with something or create perfection. The paint complemented the furniture perfectly. This wine is a great complement to the meal. The software upgrade is complementary to our new system.

A little tip that I learned many years ago about how to keep these words straight uses the letters I and E in the words. The I is in the word, gift, so a gift that you give or someone gives to you, a nice word: She gave me a compliment. The E is in the word, complete, so something that completes or perfects something. Her outfit was a nice complement to her hair and make-up.

Farther vs. Further

Farther is used to indicate physical distance. Think “far-er” or “more far”. The house was farther down the street than I remembered. For this year’s vacation, we drove farther than we ever had.

Further is used to indicate to a degree or depth. We need to explore the results further before writing the report. All agreed that the situation required further discussion.

Sometimes your situation may be ambiguous, and you do not necessarily know whether it is actual physical distance that is the subject, and hence, whether to use farther or further. Most experts agree that in those cases, the words may be used interchangeably. How’s that for a rule?!

Filed under farther further compliment complement farther further

  1. thegrammarnerd posted this