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How to use ‘compose’ and ‘comprise’

The word ‘comprise’ means ‘to contain.’

For example: ‘The book comprises six sections.’

A rule of thumb for using comprise: if you replace comprise with ‘contain’ or ‘has’ and the sentence still makes sense, you have used it correctly.

The word ‘compose’ means ‘to make up.’ Example: ‘Many ethnic groups compose this neighborhood.’

Now, the point to remember is that when using ‘comprise,’ the whole should come first in the sentence, and then the parts: in the example above, book (whole) is mentioned first and then the sections (part).

When using ‘compose,’ parts come before the whole in the sentence(ethnic groups=part; nation=whole).

is composed of’ is an acceptable phrase, while ‘is comprised of’ is not.


This neighborhood is composed of many ethnic groups. √

This neighborhood is comprised of many ethnic groups. X

This neighborhood comprises many ethnic groups. √



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