Word Showdown: Comprise vs. Compose

On this episode of Word Showdown, we look at two words often used interchangeably: comprise and compose. While they sound similar, they actually have different (but related) meanings.

To understand the differences and the similarities, let’s take a closer look at their definitions:

Comprise: to contain or include

Compose: to make up

We essentially need to look at the whole versus the parts.

While the fruit salad comprises berries, berries compose the fruit salad.

To help, try replacing comprise with include. Listen to this difference: “fruit salad includes berries” as compared to “the berries include the fruit salad.” The first makes way more sense. The whole can include the parts, but the parts can’t include the whole.

Similarly, you can replace compose with make up. Let’s use the same example: “fruit salad makes up berries” as compared to “the berries make up the fruit salad.” Now the second makes way more sense.

There’s one more thing you should watch for with this pair. While “composed of” makes sense, “comprised of” does not. “Comprised of” is incorrect usage. Again, let’s use include and make up as stand-ins to explore why this is. The phrase “includes of” sounds wrong, doesn’t it? However, “made up of” sounds perfectly fine.

Let’s test this newfound knowledge!

A. The United States comprises/composes fifty states.

B. Fifty states comprise/compose the United States.

C. Twelve rooms comprise/compose the house.

D. The house comprises/is composed of twelve rooms.





A. comprises (“The United States includes fifty states” sounds correct here, while “The United States makes up fifty states” does not.)

B. compose (“Fifty states make up the United States” sounds correct here, while “Fifty states include the United States” does not.)

C. compose (“Twelve rooms make up the house” sounds correct here, while “Twelve rooms include the house” does not.)

D. both! (“The house includes twelve rooms” and “The house is made up of twelve rooms” are both correct.)

How’d you do? This one is tricky. I often have to look it up every time I encounter it to jog my memory. What words do you constantly have to look up? Let us know, and we’ll do a Word Showdown on them.

Word Showdown: Immigrate vs. Emigrate

Today’s contestants on Word Showdown are words that have shown up in the news a lot lately: immigrate and emigrate. As homophones, they sound alike, but the correct usage depends on your point of view in the situation. Are you coming or going?

If you are moving to a new country, you are immigrating. If you are leaving your birth country,  you are emigrating. Here’s a trick to help you remember: If you’re going in, you’re immigrating. If you are exiting, you are emigrating. 

So let’s test this newfound knowledge!

A. Nazir is immigrating/emigrating to the United States.

B. Nazir is immigrating/emigrating from Pakistan.

C. Maria is an immigrant/emigrant from Mexico.

D. Maria is an immigrant/emigrant in Costa Rica.





Drumroll, please!

A. immigrating

B. emigrating

C. emigrant

D. immigrant

How’d you do?

Don’t forget to send in your love stories to our Modern Love Challenge! We’ll start posting next week!

Word Showdown: That vs. Which

Today we’re starting a new series, Word Showdown, in which we will explore the correct usage of words that often get confused. Today’s topic: that vs. which.

This set of words confounds many people. In fact, it is an issue we correct in nearly every project we work on. While many folks have the impression that which is just a fancier version of that, the two words actually have very different purposes that affect a sentence’s meaning.


On the left side of the ring, we have that. On the right, we have whichContinue reading “Word Showdown: That vs. Which”