Complete vs. finished

Posted on Thu 02 Jun 2011 @ 5.06am UTC

No English dictionary has been able to explain the difference between the words complete and finished. Some people say there is no difference.

It’s the same situation with the words ‘complex’ and ‘complicated.’

Textbooks usually give dried-out examples, such as:

  • A complete set of Mark Twain’s writings. (Full, entire, nothing lacking)
  • A complete orbit. (Finished, ended, concluded)
  • A complete scholar. (Having the full set of customary characteristics, skills, etc.)
  • His parting look of impotent rage completed my revenge. (To make perfect.)
  • To pack and ship finished items. (Completed or perfected in all details)
  • A dazzling and finished piece of writing. (Polished to the highest degree of excellence)

There IS a practical difference, and those examples don’t show it. But it’s so easy:

When you marry the right one, you are complete.

When you marry the wrong one, you are finished.

And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are


(courtesy of Fred L., 01 June 2011)

© Learn English or Starve, 2011

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Posted in: Colour Section