How can I give and receive compliments?

Do you know what compliments are?

They are nice things we say to people about their appearance or things they did.  They’re a way of praising other people.  For example, if your friend is wearing a new sweater, you might say ‘I really like your sweater.’  Or, if your teammate plays well in a sports game, you might say ‘Wow! You were awesome!’

Compliments are often used in English, especially in casual conversations.  In fact, there a some times when we would almost always give compliments eg. eating food someone has cooked for us.

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When complimenting people about how they look, it’s usually better to do it with people you know well eg. friends and family.  It’s also a good idea to use the verb ‘to suit.’  It means to be a good match for that person eg. ‘That jacket really suits you!’  When complimenting people about their actions, you can also do it with people you don’t know so well.  For example, to a classmate getting a high test score, you might say ‘I’m impressed!’ or ‘Good on you!’

If you can, try to be specific when giving compliments.  This will make your compliment seem more honest or genuine.  For example, after saying ‘That jacket really suits you,’ also say ‘I really like the color’.  Or, after saying ‘Your presentation was awesome!’, also say ‘I especially liked the part about….’ 

Importantly, the language we use can change when complimenting.  It can change depending on who or what we are complimenting.  For example, you wouldn’t say ‘good job’ when your boss gets a promotion, instead you would say ‘congratulations’.  Phrases like ‘good job’ or ‘well done’ or not usually used for people who are older or in a higher position than you (eg. your teacher or boss). 

To receive a compliment, rather than saying ‘no’ or ‘I don’t think so,’ it’s usually better to accept the compliment first.  For example, thank the speaker using phrases like ‘Really? Thank you,’ or ‘Thank you. You’re too kind.’  You can also be modest by adding things like ‘Thank you, do you really think so?’ or ‘Thank you, but I could’ve done better.’

Below are some more examples of language you can use for complimenting in different situations:

Everyday clothing and appearance

I like your new haircut. It really suits you.

Those sunglasses really suit you!

Nice jacket! Is it new?

Dressing for a special event (eg. wedding, formal party)

You look incredible! (for her)

You look amazing! (for her)

You look sharp! (for him)

Wow, look at you! (can also be used for children)


I like your car. Is it new?

Your house is amazing!

Eating someone’s cooking

This is really good!

This is fantastic!

This is incredible!

Yum! (more casual)

Someone’s achievements or actions

I’m impressed! (general achievements eg. doing a job well, getting a high test score)

Congratulations! / Good on you! (passing a test/getting an award/passing an interview/getting a promotion etc.)

You were awesome!  (after a game, performance, presentation, etc.)

Good job! / Well done! (for kids/your students/your subordinates)

I’m proud of you! (usually for kids, especially your own)

Receiving compliments

Really? Thank you! (appearance and actions)

Thank you. Do you really think so? (appearance and actions)

Thank you, you’re too kind. (actions)

Thank you, but I could’ve done better (actions)

Related links:

How can I disagree politely?

Can you tell a funny story in English?