A cup of coffee (1) / is an excellent complement (2) / to smoked salmon (3) / no error (4)

According to me error should be in 3 as it should be" a smoked salmon "but the answer provided is no error. Is the answer provided wrong?

  • You should add why you think 3 should be "a smoked salmon". It's still wrong, but it might make for a better explanation.
    – user3169
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 22:35
  • 2
    The error is even recommending drinking coffee with a smoked salmon dish. "A cup of coffee is NOT an excellent complement to smoked salmon" is a much better sentence :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 7:27
  • @Mari-LouA I have since tried this and heartily concur that smoked salmon and coffee are not complementary flavors. Perhaps they meant that the coffee is a nice way to cleanse the palate between bites, or that coffee goes well with the typical accoutrements of smoke salmon, like certain cheeses, but I cannot recommend coffee and salmon in the same mouthful.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 16:51
  • @Andrew I was wondering, wouldn't "accompaniment" be a more appropriate term for a drink that is consumed with a meal?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 16:57
  • @Mari-LouA In this case I think my use of "accoutrement" is ironic, since it's an uncommon term that ordinarily refers to equipment, or tools, not food. Although I don't think "accompaniment" is quite the right word either. More common is "go with", as in, "Coffee goes with a donut -- or, more likely, donuts ". However with wine (and some other alcoholic beverages) you will often see "pair", as in, "What vintage is best paired with this spinach and arugula salad with heirloom tomatoes, maple-infused pistachios, and Himalayan sea salt?"
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


There are several ways to use complement.

A is a complement to B.

A is a complement of B.

A complements B.

Unfortunately you have to memorize these and recognize them when they appear.

Your answer would be correct if the subject were plural, and if the sentence didn't include the "to be" verb before "excellent complement". For example:

Many glasses of wine nicely complement a heartfelt conversation.

As written the "to be" verb turns "complement" into a noun:

Many glasses of wine are a nice complement to a heartfelt conversation.

Additionally, "smoked salmon" is both a countable and an uncountable noun. You can have both a single smoked salmon (the whole fish) or some quantity of smoked salmon. Which is meant depends on context, but in general you'll see the uncountable far more often, since you'll rarely want to serve an entire smoked salmon (unless you really like the stuff). In your example question, I would assume they mean an undefined and uncountable quantity of smoked salmon, and not use any article. Related example:

I will never turn down smoked salmon (uncountable) and cream cheese (uncountable) on a bagel (countable).

Personally I don't see coffee going with smoked salmon, but that's just my opinion. I should try it and find out.

(Edit) In my opinion, coffee and smoked salmon are not complementary flavors. However, it may be that coffee is a nice way to cleanse the palate between bites of salmon.

  • 1
    Nope. salmon is oily and coffee is not drunk to cleanse the palate between one bite and another. That would be the job for a wine. A sorbet, or pre dessert, is served after the main course but before dessert. It's tangy, tart fresh taste acts like a gateway to a sweeter dish.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:39
  • @Mari-LouA I can't argue with that. :)
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:55

What is the problem?

A cup of coffee - I think no problem with this.
salmon is a countable noun but as a dish, it is uncountable or a mass noun
something can be a complement to something (def: 3)

No error! :)

  • @java I meant that only. Anyway edited
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 10:40

Assuming the quote is supposed to be a complete English sentence, the error lies in region (3). The words are fine (disregarding the whole business of whether coffee complements salmon), but there should be a full stop (period) or exclamation mark etc at the end of the sentence.

Incidentally, no article is required before salmon. This holds for the coffee as well - you could drop "A cup of" and still end up with a valid sentence, provided you punctuate the end of the sentence.

  • The missing period/full stop is probably a transcription error on the OP's part.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:42
  • @Mari-LouA I've answered the question as asked :P . (And included a comment about determiners, which touches on the substance of the OP's concern.) Besides, the quote is from a test where errors are deliberately inserted. Leaving out a full stop is a real possibility. :)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:43
  • studymaterials.examsrider.com/… The "A cup of" is perfectly fine, you could have said that "a smoked salmon" means the entire fish, which would be unlikely because salmons can be pretty huge!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:51
  • @Mari-LouA Yup, determiners change the sense somewhat, but in this case, either, both or none is fine. I was just pointing out that not having a determiner before salmon wasn't a problem.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:52

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