Thursday, December 20

Comprise, Compose, Consist, Constitute

Our lesson for today is about 4 words that are often confused by learners because they have very similar usages. They are:

  1. Comprise

  2. Compose

  3. Consist

  4. Constitute

If you want to know the differences between these 4 words, first, you have to know their Parts of Speech. In other words, you have to know what type of word each of them is.

Take a look:

  1. Comprise = Verb (Transitive)

  2. Compose = Verb (Transitive)

  3. Consist = Verb (Intransitive)

  4. Constitute = Linking Verb

Now let’s proceed to their structure…


The reason why things get confusing for learners is because we can use some of the words in Passive form. See for yourself:

 Table of Structures


is comprised of = Ok

is composed of = Ok
consist of

is consisted of = X
is constituted = Ok (but different meaning: establish)

Please pay attention to the “Be” Verbs and Prepositions. The presence or absence of these small words inside your sentence can make you wrong.

For example, it’s correct to say:

Dinner consists of leftover pizza and instant noodles. = OK

While it’s wrong to say:

Dinner is consisted of leftover pizza and instant noodles. = X

But it’s correct to say:

Water is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. = OK

And it’s wrong to change the Preposition after “is composed.” Like these:

Water is composed by two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. = X

Water is composed with two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. = X

Is composed” should always be followed by “of.” 

In sum, if you don’t pay attention to small things like “Be” Verb or what Preposition you use, you will be wrong.

NOTE:  It’s wrong to say “comprise of” like this:

America comprises of 50 states. = X

Even if you hear some native speakers using this form, please don’t follow it. It should be either:

America comprises 50 states. = Ok


America is comprised of 50 states. = Ok

Actually, the second one, “be comprised of” is a fairly recent construction. This means that before, this was considered wrong and ungrammatical. But the language is constantly changing and the expression has become more accepted.

In the end, about structure, the best way would be to memorize the good structures and avoid the bad ones in the table above. Practice making many sentences with them and try not to mix them up.

Next, meaning…


At this point, let’s mention the word “include.” Isn’t “include” the same as the 4 words above? Doesn’t it belong together with them?

The answer is Yes, “include” is similar to our 4 words. But it isn’t the same.

When we use the word “include,” we mention only some members or parts but not all.

On the other hand, when we use “comprise,” “compose,” “consist,” and “constitute,” we’re talking about all the members and parts.  

For example,

Fruits include mangoes and pineapples.

=> “Mangoes” and “Pineapples” are only some examples of “fruits.”


America comprises 50 states.

=> The total number of states is 50. That’s all of them.

Part vs. Whole

As you saw from our examples above, “comprise,” “compose,” “consist,” and “constitute” deal with the meaning of parts and whole.

Now we have to go into this deeper…

Think of it this way. There are 2 important things you need to remember:

A = Parts

B = Whole

When you use “compose” and “constitute,” just follow this formula:

Parts + Verb + Whole

A + Verb + B

A + compose + B

A + constitute + B


50 states compose America.

50 states constitute America.

Of course if you use “compose” in Passive form, you have to switch the meaning as well. Like this:

Whole + Verb + Parts

B + Verb + A

B + is composed of + A


America is composed of 50 states.

In this form, “is composed of” is similar to "consist."

America consists of 50 states.

B + consist of + A

And, surprisingly, “comprise” is also used this way:

America comprises 50 states.

B + comprise + A

The last point is a great source of confusion among non-native speakers, especially because “comprise” appears very similar to the word “compose.” But when it comes to usage, they’re the exact opposite.

Compose is “Part + V + Whole” while Comprise is “Whole + V + Part.”

Another surprising thing about “comprise” is that it can also be used in the Passive form. Just like “compose.” But unlike “compose,” it doesn’t change meaning. It’s still the same. 


America comprises 50 states. = America is comprised of 50 states.

Like I said, the sentence on the right side was previously unacceptable in grammar. But it has been more and more in use.

In summary,

Table of Meanings

Part + Verb + Whole
Whole + Verb + Part



is composed of

consist of


is comprised of

Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !

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