Easily Confused Words: Compete vs. Complete

Compete and complete are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Compete (pronounced “kuhm-peet”) is a verb. It means to participate in sports or a game with others; each person intent on winning.

Complete (pronounced “kuhm-pleet”) is a noun. It means a state of being finished with an activity, or finishing a set or collection.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Cormag had trained for months and race day was finally here. Unfortunately, halfway through the race he fell and twisted his ankle. He couldn’t complete the race if he was unable to compete in it. It was a devastating blow to his confidence.


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