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I've been requested to rewrite the part in bold of the sentence below

The speaker praised Janice's contribution to the project.

And the answer is:

The speaker paid tribute to Janice's contribution to the project.

I've looked up the word tribute in Oxford dictionary. It says

an act, a statement or a gift that is intended to show your respect or admiration, especially for a dead person.

With some examples ( all of them are related to dead people)

At her funeral her oldest friend paid tribute to her life and work.

I wonder if pay tribute to is completely synonymous with praise or compliment. Is it ok if I say He paid tribute to her cooking?

2 Answers 2

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'pay tribute' is absolutely not completely synonymous to 'praise' or 'compliment'.

Note act, statement or gift in the definition.

First, a praise or a compliment can be shallow, missing the point, false - they are just statements with apparent purpose of stating a positive opinion, but that apparent purpose is not always the factual purpose, nor always successful; also small, shallow compliments or praises are rarely enough to count them as "tribute". You don't pay tribute to a woman by saying "nice hair", nor do you pay tribute to an object of architecture by saying "This looks nice."

The tribute may be a longer statement that provides a praise. It can be a work of art, dedicated to the subject you're paying the tribute to. It can be a major endeavor undertaken in honor or memory of someone. I don't think this expression is ever used ironically.

A praise, and a compliment:

Oh, and Janice did some nice work on reports for the project. They look quite pretty.

A tribute:

This project would be dead in the water if not for Janice. She spent many sleepless nights ironing out the details. She explored possibilities nobody had tried before. She is the factual mother of this success, and we are forever grateful to her for the monumental work which will open an entirely new path for the whole industry. Ladies and gentlemen, applause to Janice!

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In your sentence example, "pay tribute to" doesn't seem to fit best. As the speaker intends to "admire" or "praise" her cooking, and not "respecting".

  • He admired her cooking.

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