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Giving & Accepting Compliments in English

March 1, 2016

March 1 is World Compliment Day! Here’s an activity to try!


  1. Introduce your students to the word “compliment” (a positive remark about someone or something), and explain that it can be used as a noun and a verb. While you are looking at the word itself, explain the difference between compliment and complement. (I always tell my students that the one that means “extra” has an extra “e”.)
  2. Ask your students to identify different things that they praise people for (clothing, hair, job performance, talent, design, hard work). Can they remember the most recent compliment they received?
  3. Explain that giving a compliment is a form of small talk. It’s a great way to start a conversation. Students can give compliments to people they know or don’t know. When we visit a friend or family member, it’s nice to give a compliment as part of a greeting. My sister-in-law finds a way to compliment me every time I see her. She’s so sweet!
  4. Explain that we often use the verbs “give,” “accept,” and “take/can’t take” with the word compliment.

Teach Useful Expressions for Giving Compliments

Teach your students some common expressions for giving a compliment.


  • You look nice today.
  • I love your new hairstyle.
  • That color looks good on you. / You look good in blue.
  • Your dining room looks beautiful.


  • You worked very hard on this.
  • Nice work!
  • Good job!
  • This is excellent.


  • You're a great artist.
  • You're so good with kids.
  • You have a lovely voice.


  • You make great cookies!
  • You're such a good chef.
  • This pasta is delicious.


  • Your son is a great actor.
  • Your mom has the nicest garden.
  • I loved your sister's book.

Teach How to Accept a Compliment

Your students will also need to practice accepting a compliment. The best way to respond is with a simple thank you and a big smile!

  • Thank you.
  • Why, thank you! (with slight surprise)
  • Thank you for saying that.
  • I appreciate that.
  • I needed to hear that. (after having a bad day or feeling inadequate)
  • You’re so sweet.
  • I’ll tell her you said that. / She’ll be happy to hear that. (accepting indirectly)

Explain that many people have difficulty accepting a compliment. They may respond in a humble way. They may also fish for more compliments.

  • Do you really think so?
  • I don’t think so, but thanks for saying so.

Some people really can’t take a compliment. They almost always respond to a compliment in a self-deprecating way.


Example #1

A: Your cookies are delicious.
B: They could use a little more sugar.

Example #2

A: Your presentation was great.
B: Are you kidding? I was so nervous.

Example #3

A: I like your glasses.
B: These old things? I’ve had them forever.

Practice Giving Compliments

Now have your students practice. Write a setting on the board (e.g., birthday party, school reunion, wedding, funeral, hockey game, staff meeting). Tell your students to imagine themselves mingling with friends, colleagues, relatives, and strangers at this event. They should walk around and give each other compliments about appearance, job performance, talent, clothing, food, etc. They should also practice accepting compliments.

For Fun!

After practicing giving and accepting compliments, visit the World Compliment Day website, and have your students fill out a World Compliment Day award for a classmate or friend.

A certificate with a compliment written on it

A certificate with a compliment written on it

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Comments (11)

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for the great tips, Tara! And thank you for my lovely award. :)

Allow me to return the compliment by saying that working with you has made me a better writer and editor! Your suggestions for improving my lessons are invaluable. I'm so glad we work together—we 'complement' each other well!

Reply to Comment

Kelly Morrissey(Guest)

What a great idea! I did not even realize that we had World Compliment Day coming up soon. I'll get on this. :) K

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for stopping by our blog, Kelly. It's a great topic for a holiday, isn't it? We think this is a really useful topic for language learners. Have fun!

yurni emilia(Guest)

thank you for this great idea.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for stopping by our blog! I hope your students have fun with this.

Reza (Guest)

Really helpful..keep on updating good materials .thank you

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

We're glad you like this mini-lesson! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Zidane (Guest)

This material is so interesting and helpful. Can I copy-paste this material with its source?

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks, Zidane. Please don't copy-paste our material anywhere. You can link to it instead. Thanks! ~ Tara

knowledge wisdom(Guest)

I read your blog. Having very use full information help me a lot. I will read more articles on your blog.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for stopping by!

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