What is the difference between 'finished' and 'completed', as both words gives the same meaning?

Ex 1: He finished his homework.

Ex 2: He completed his homework.

And also how or where to use these words?

Dictionary Reference:

Completed: Finish making or doing.

Finished: Brought to an end; completed.

As for me both sentences have the same meaning. So is there any real difference between them?

  • The words can have the exact same meaning, especially in the sentence you ask about. – user6951 Apr 16 '15 at 12:06
  • 2
    When you marry a right woman you are complete. When you marry a wrong woman you are finished. When the right woman sees you with the wrong woman, you are completely finished. – maha Jun 27 '15 at 7:16
  • I think the two words (complete and finish) carry the same meaning – user28001 Dec 23 '15 at 13:56
  • In most cases where completed is correct you could say finished instead, but the reverse is not true. Finished [verb]ing usually can't be changed to completed [verb]ing. Here are some examples that work only with finish[ed]: "Have you finished eating?" "What time does your shift finish?" "I've not finished exercising." "You're finished." "Finish up for now." (That last one means to stop doing something with the expectation of continuing later.) – nnnnnn May 21 '16 at 8:18

In many contexts, the meanings are pretty much the same, but you might hear finished more often than completed in casual conversation. For example:

I've finished my shopping.
She finished the song.
He finished the race.

I could use completed in those sentences – the meaning wouldn't change, but the register might sound off.

The word completed can convey some sense of accomplishment. In the context of a race, it might work when the race is a major achievement:

He completed his first marathon last year.

Homework, though, is not really a major achievement, so I think you'd hear finished more often in casual conversation:

“Joey, where are you going? Did you finish your homework?”

That said, you might see completed in more formal contexts, such as a paper on education, or a course syllabus:

Students must complete six homework assignments during the semester.


From wordreference :

fin•ish /ˈfɪnɪʃ/ v.

to bring or come to an end or to completion

to use completely

to overcome completely; destroy or kill

to put a finish on (wood, metal, etc.)

And still from wordreference :

com•plete /kəmˈplit/ v.

to make whole, entire, or perfect

to bring to an end ;finish

We can see that finish and complete use each other to define themselves, so they have a very close meaning.

Finish has :

  • the killing meaning,

  • the using the whole product meaning

  • and the surface coating meaning

in addition of the complete common meaning.

While complete has the extra finishing perfectly meaning.

He finished his homework.

He simply ended it, did enought to consider it finished.

He completed his homework.

He ended it correctly, totally, the with success part is tacit.

  • -1 The two words mean the same. The boy completed his homework but half his answers were wrong. The boy finished his homework and all his answers were correct. The 'additional' meaning of complete is not always present. In other words, complete can be the same as finish (a synonym) and it can also be different from finish (a different meaning). – user6951 Apr 16 '15 at 12:02
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    I did not say it was always present, I underlined a tendency. I also say that they are have a very close meaning... it was exagerated on purpose... – Yohann V. Apr 16 '15 at 12:14
  • Your answer is unclear as written – user6951 Apr 16 '15 at 12:16
  • Look the bold part – Yohann V. Apr 16 '15 at 12:17

I'd like to add a bit about the difference between finish and complete, in hope that it can help "complete" other answers, which are already good, a little. (In other words, I write this as a supplementary answer.)

The striking difference between the two can be observed in the contrast of "You finish me" and "You complete me".

"You finish me" (or "You finish me off") means "You kill me", i.e. you put "the end" to my life.

"You complete me" is normally used between couples, in the sense that one (e.g. a wife) completes the other (e.g. a husband). With her, he is a more "complete" person. Without her, he is "incomplete". A good example of this phrase can be found in Jerry Maguire (one of my favorite movies of all time!):

Jerry Maguire: [babbling and struggling] I love you. You... you complete me. And I just...
Dorothy: Shut up,
Dorothy: just shut up.
Dorothy: You had me at "hello". You had me at "hello".
Source: IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116695/quotes?item=qt0389299

So, once you finish me, my life is "no more".

But once you complete me, my life is "perfect".

Back to your homework sentence (He completed/finished his homework), homework is a kind of work. After work reaches its perfect state (i.e. "it's done"), we'll have no more of that work. This is why in the context of work, including your homework, saying either He finished his homework or He completed his homework will have pretty much the same meaning.

  • I think you're mixing apples and oranges here. The word complete in "You complete me" has a different meaning than the word complete in "Let's complete the homework assignment tomorrow." They are listed as meanings 8 & 9 in Collins; one means "finish" while the other means "make more whole or prefect." Besides, everyone knows that "completed" homework assignments are rarely "perfect" assignments – that's why teachers carry red pens! ;^) – J.R. Apr 16 '15 at 20:57

I guess most of the times these terms can be used interchangeably.

However, you cannot "complete" something that does not "support being complete" (e.g. we say "finish" one's class or one's day, but not "complete").

Moreover, "finish" has far more definitions and uses than "complete", as stated many times above.

So, to sum it up, where "complete" is used, we can also use "finish" (even if it renders the sentence less formal), but not the vice versa. When we complete something, it comes to an end (it finishes). Nevertheless, when we finish something, it does not necessarily complete.

The same, more or less, meaning of and differences between the two verbs are met in greek as well: Finish -> Tel-iono: telos -> the end (noun) and Complete -> Oloklir-ono: olokliros -> whole, complete (adj.)


Complete and finish are opposite in meaning but their use can be made to give the same meaning.

Complete is to be wholly made up. Finish is to exhaust, or expended. So in their use in a sentence, they can be used from that opposite direction to convey the same meaning: as in a cup being half filled or half empty.

One can complete his shopping when one has filled the shopping bag with all items to be bought.

One can finish shopping when one has exhausted the items in the shopping list.

  • 2
    When someone finishes their homework, or a race, they have not exhausted those things in any meaningful way. They've completed them. Likewise, one can finish turning a clay vase, which means it's fully formed, or even finish a tabletop by putting the final coat of lacquer or stain on it, which is known as the wood's "finish". It's true that finish sometimes has the sense of running out or running low, but it's much more common for it to simply mean the same thing as complete: that something is done. – Nathan Tuggy May 21 '16 at 7:21

protected by J.R. Jul 19 '16 at 9:47

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