A Complimentary Lesson about Complementary Words

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

I just read an essay in which a  student wrote “I gave a complement to the author after the presentation.”   This prickly pair needs clarification.   Here’s my complimentary mini-lesson on these two complementary words: 

The sheen of the bright yellow-orange yolk truly complements the navy purple saucepan.


Complementary vs. Complimentary

Entities that go well together are complementary.

The colors blue and gray complement each other.

Two people who complete each other are considered complementary.


Complimentary refers to items given without charge, usually offered in addition to a product or service purchased. Additionally, it means to praise someone.

The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast to patrons who stay overnight.

The PR Vice President was very complimentary to the qualified intern candidate.

GG hopes this complimentary lessons complements your vocabulary!

All Together Now . . . Don’t Be Altogether Confused

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

This particular prickly pair of words gets my students pondering.


All Together Vs. Altogether

A.  All Together means:

1.  at the same time

One, two, three, all together, sing: “Sweeeeet Caroline, bum, bum, bum . . . .”

2. as a group

Let’s go to hot yoga all together: it’s much more fun that way and we can laugh as we try to hold our balance!

B.  Altogether means:

1. completely

Tyler didn’t take his dog to the vet to put her to sleep until she was altogether listless and lifeless.  He kept saying that she was okay, and it was very sad.

2. total

The books that shipped today were 130 copies of Great Expectations, 50 copies of “Romeo & Juliet,” and 30 copies of The Odyssey:  210 copies altogether.

3. considering everything

Altogether, it was a fabulous trip, despite the painful sun poisoning on my feet. . . .

GG mnemonic (memory trick):  remember that all together – because it’s two separate words – is the one that needs to get into a group and get in sync. This associates the meaning with the spelling to help you remember which of these words is which.

Who is Whom?

October 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

A student raised his hand in class today and inquired about the use of whom.  He asked if it is one of those words that has fallen out of the English language since he rarely hears it.  I told him, au contraire . . . the word is alive and well – many just don’t know how to use it appropriately.  There is actually a simple little trick for understanding which word to use!:

Who vs. Whom

Who is that behind the mask?

Who is that behind the mask?

Use who (or whoever) when I, he, she, we or they could take its place.

Who and whoever are nominative forms.


Who is in charge of the redundant meeting? (She is in charge of the redundant meeting.)

Whoever said she couldn’t write?

He said she couldn’t write.

Use whom (or whomever) when me, him, her, us, or them could take its place as a direct object or object of a preposition in the whom clause.


For whom is he writing? (He is writing for her.)

I will vote for whomever you recommend. (You recommend him.)

Whom and whomever are objective forms.