When I need to add information of some kind to something else, should I use "supplement", "complement" – or another verb entirely? I have looked up both these verbs in various dictionaries, but I'm still not sure.


  1. If you have not yet received your final grades at the application deadline, you may supplement/complement/? your application until 1 July.

  2. These documents need to be supplemented/complemented/? with documentation of previous work experience.

  3. If you are close to a pass, your teacher may allow you to supplement/complement/? the assignment within two weeks.

  4. You may supplement/complement/? the police report at a later point.

  5. These results need to be supplemented/complemented/? with results from other studies.

1 Answer 1


"Supplement" means add to what is already there, and complement means to contrast or give alternatives.

So in example 2 if the existing documents are about recent work experience they might be supplement by documentation of previous work experience. If the documents are about education, they might be complemented by documentation about work experience (as work complements education). Similarly in 5, you supplement by results on the same topic, and complement with results on a contrasting topic.

Other examples might use different words. In example 1, you "continue" your application until 1st July.

I don't know what you want to say in 3, but neither supplement nor complement seem to be appropriate, perhaps "resubmit"? Similarly for 4, perhaps you mean "respond to" or some other phrase. Neither supplement nor complement seem to fit well here.

  • Thank you! In ex 3, I mean that a student who has submitted an assignment that is not detailed/comprehensive enough may add information to their assignment and then resubmit, and smilarly, in 4, I mean that if you've made a police report, you may add information to it at a later point. Perhaps "add" is, in fact, the best choice in these cases?
    – Gerda
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 0:54
  • 1
    Yes, "add" or "add to". Using "supplement" or "complement" suggests a new document, not making additions to an existing one.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 6:15

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