*Comprised Of | Meaning & Correct Usage

Comprise is a verb meaning “to be made up of”. Writing “comprised of” is a common mistake that confuses the meanings of comprise and compose (which means “to make up”).

It’s illogical to use “comprise” in the passive voice with the same meaning that it already expresses in the active voice – just like it wouldn’t make sense to write, for example, “is bought of” in place of “buys”.

The correct phrase is composed of. The phrase “is comprised of” can also be replaced with comprisesconsists of, or is made up of. All of these are valid alternatives; “comprised of” is never correct.

Examples: Replacing “comprised of”
  • A healthy lifestyle is comprised of regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
  • A healthy lifestyle is composed of regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
  • A healthy lifestyle comprises regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
  • A healthy lifestyle consists of regular exercise and a nutritious diet.
  • A healthy lifestyle is made up of regular exercise and a nutritious diet.

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“Comprised of” in other contexts

When it’s used alone (not preceded by a form of the verb “be” such as “is” or “are”), “comprised of” is still incorrect. In this context, it can be replaced by composed ofconsisting of, comprising, or made up of.

Examples: Replacing “comprised of” when it’s used alone
  • She ate a breakfast comprised of oats, apples, milk, and honey.
  • She ate a breakfast composed of oats, apples, milk, and honey.
  • She ate a breakfast consisting of oats, apples, milk, and honey.
  • She ate a breakfast comprising oats, apples, milk, and honey.
  • She ate a breakfast made up of oats, apples, milk, and honey.

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The debate about “comprised of”

Though “comprised of” (and other uses of “comprise” that treat it as synonymous with “compose”) is traditionally regarded as a mistake, the phrase is so widely used at this point that some commentators believe it should be treated as standard English – or that it soon will be.

Merriam-Webster, for instance, mentions that some people dislike this use of “comprise” but still lists it as a standard sense of the word. It’s possible that “comprised of” may become fully standard in the future, with no one objecting to its use.

For now, though, using “comprise” in this way remains controversial. While many people don’t see it as a mistake, most editors still do. So, in academic writing and other formal contexts, it’s best to use “composed of” or another alternative to avoid any problems.

Worksheet: Comprise vs. compose

You can test your understanding of the difference between “comprise” and “compose” with the worksheet below. Fill in a form of either “comprise” or “compose” in each sentence.

  1. An engine ______ a large number of components.
  2. The war was ______ of several distinct stages.
  3. Individuals from various different backgrounds ______ the committee.
  4. Academic books often ______ chapters written by different authors.
  5. Sentences are ______ of words, which ______ individual letters.
  1. An engine comprises a large number of components.
    • The whole (the engine) “comprises” the parts (the components), so you need the verb “comprise” here. “Comprises” is the third-person singular form of the verb, which is needed for subject-verb agreement with the singular noun “engine”.
  2. The war was composed of several distinct stages.
    • You can tell that “composed” is needed here because a passive-voice phrasing with “of” is used. “Comprised of” would not be correct.
  3. Individuals from various different backgrounds compose the committee.
    • Here, “compose” is used in the active voice. The parts (individuals) “compose” the whole (the committee).
  4. Academic books often comprise chapters written by different authors.
    • The whole (the book) “comprises” the parts (the chapters). The plural form “comprise” is used here to match the plural noun “books”.
  5. Sentences are composed of words, which comprise individual letters.
    • In the first part of this sentence, “composed” is needed to complete the passive phrasing “are composed of”. The second part uses “comprise” in the active voice instead.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a synonym of “comprise”?

Some synonyms and near synonyms of the verb comprise are:

  • Be composed of
  • Be made up of
  • Consist of
  • Contain
  • Include

People increasingly use “comprise” interchangeably with “compose,” meaning that they consider words like “compose,” “constitute,” and “form” to be synonymous with “comprise.” However, this is still normally regarded as an error, and we advise against using these words interchangeably in academic writing.

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Caulfield, J. (2023, March 31). *Comprised Of | Meaning & Correct Usage. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/common-errors/comprised-of-mistake/

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.