Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am confused about when to use finish instead of complete and vice versa.

May you help me in understanding when to use those words?

share|improve this question
    
You asked about "finish" and "complete"? I didn't get it... Editing my answer. :D –  Alenanno Aug 27 '11 at 9:06
    
When you marry the right woman, you are complete. And when you marry the wrong woman, you are finished. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished! -Samsundar Balgobin, recent London linguistic competition ftw! –  user47833 Jul 15 '13 at 16:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

They are kind of synonyms but not really interchangeable.

To finish means simply bringing something (a task or activity) to an end, or simply stop doing it:

We finished eating our meal.
(In this case you wouldn't use complete: "We completed eating our meal." is not the preferred usage).

To complete means finish making or doing, such as in:

He completed his Ph.D. in 1983.

But another meaning peculiar to "complete" is making something whole or perfect, or with the meaning of "filling a form"::

  • He only needed one thing to complete his happiness.
  • Please complete the attached forms.

While to finish means merely bringing something to an end, or stop doing that something, to complete has the acception of fulfilling something.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this I found on the net:

"When you marry the right person, you're complete. When you marry the wrong one, you're finished."

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 for that last quote. –  Peter Shor Aug 27 '11 at 17:20
    
@Peter: :D It's very explicative! –  Alenanno Aug 27 '11 at 17:43
    
The last quote was the killer part. Nice :) +1 –  Tarik Aug 27 '11 at 23:41

When you finished your life, it does not mean it is complete; when you have completed your life, it is finished!

share|improve this answer

protected by Community Nov 6 '13 at 16:00

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.