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comprise OR be comprised of?

comprise versus be comprised of

The forms comprise and be comprised of are virtually synonymous and can normally be used interchangeably.

comprise

meaning: consist of, be made up of

This usage of comprise—meaning consist of, be made up of—is not disputed. We use it as shown in the following example sentences:

  • His country comprises fifty states and one district.
  • This book comprises 250 pages.
  • The opening paragraph comprises three sentences.
  • It is enough to say that the whole comprises its parts. (Sunday Times 2010)
  • Before its demolition, the factory comprised 20 buildings. (note past tense)
The verb comprise can have a slightly different meaning: to be the parts that form something. This usage is less common. While it is certainly seen, including in good dictionaries, it is disputed by some people. Examples are:
  • His essays comprise 50% of his total work.
  • People under the age of thirty comprise the majority of visitors to EnglishClub.

be comprised of

meaning: consist of, be made up of

This form, be comprised of, has the same meaning as comprise. So we can take the above example sentences and reword them thus:

  • His country is comprised of fifty states and one district.
  • This book is comprised of 250 pages.
  • The opening paragraph is comprised of three sentences.
  • It is enough to say that the whole is comprised of its parts.
  • Before its demolition, the factory was comprised of 20 buildings.
Some linguists claim that be comprised of is wrong and should never be used. But there is not much evidence to support their claims and they are fighting a losing battle since be comprised of is widely used by native English speakers and established writers; and even authorities such as the British Macmillan Dictionaries and American Merriam-Webster among others approve the use of be comprised of to mean the same as comprise.

Indeed, be comprised of meaning comprise is found in English writing since at least the early 18th century, including the works of major intellectuals and writers, for example:

  • The book is comprised of a few of the innumerable letters, statements, speeches and articles delivered by me since 1963. Bertrand Russell 1967
  • The House of the Spirits is, or rather retrospectively it became, the last of a trilogy that is comprised of itself, preceded by Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia. Christopher Hitchens 2011

comprise of

The use of comprise of instead of comprise is generally regarded as incorrect in standard British and American English. Examples such as the following are therefore best avoided:

  • Greater London comprises of 32 London boroughs and the City of London.
  • The property comprises of a living-room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.

Mini Quiz

Check your usage of comprise versus comprised of with this quick quiz.

1. My country _______ ten states.

comprises
comprised of
a) comprises b) comprised of

2. The house _______ of five rooms.

was comprised
comprised
a) was comprised b) comprised

3. How many pages is the book _______ of?

comprised
comprise
a) comprised b) comprise

Your score is:

Correct answers: