Compose and Comprise

rogersgeorge on April 24th, 2017

I’ve been posting things that people get wrong a lot lately, and here’s another one, that someone (the folks at This Day in History) almost got right! They seem to know the way most people get this wrong, and they avoid that: NEVER use “is comprised of”! That’s a pretentiousism. (You may say “is composed of” when appropriate. See the last rule below.)

The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

But they still got it backwards. Here are the rules:

Use comprise when you start with the whole thing and then mention its parts. It means “is made up of.”

Use compose when you start with the parts (winning teams) and then say what they make (The Final Four). You may use “is composed of” if you have a need to put the whole thing first and the parts second and you don’t want to use comprise. So, “The ‘Final Four’ is composed of the winning teams from each region” is correct.

 

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