What is the difference between 'finished' and 'completed', As both words gives the same meaning.

Ex 1: He finished his homework.

Ex 2: He completed his homework.

And also how to use or where to use these words ?

Dictionary Reference :

Completed : Finish making or doing.

Finished : Brought to an end; completed.

As for me both sentence has same or mere meaning, So is there any real difference between?

  • I guess most of the time they mean the same thing. But sometimes only one works: you can finish a meal, but you can't complete it.
    – bjb568
    Apr 16, 2015 at 4:09
  • 3
    @bjb568 When you marry the right women, you are 'Complete'. If you marry the wrong women, you are 'Finished', BUT when the right women catch you with the wrong women, you are 'Completely Finished`.
    – Krebto
    Mar 8, 2017 at 14:50
  • 2
    @Krebto Haha. Though that problem likely started with the plural.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 8, 2017 at 14:57
  • 1
    @Lawrence haha indeed.
    – Krebto
    Mar 8, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    @bjb568 - Dessert finishes the meal!
    – Davo
    Mar 8, 2017 at 15:14

5 Answers 5


I could see a subtle difference. I always though the difference was this:

completed - means you've done all the parts of the relevant task
finished - you have done the task as a whole, but you may have skipped some parts.


I have finished the game, but I'm yet to complete all the side quests.

Edit: Free Dictionary agrees with me

1. Having all necessary or normal parts, components, or steps; entire: a complete medical history; a complete set of dishes.

a. To stop (doing an activity or task) after reaching the point at which there is nothing left to do: finished cleaning the room.
b. To bring to a required or desired state: finish an assignment; finish a painting.

  • So how about saying as 'Completely finished?', Do the meaning change here? Apr 16, 2015 at 5:37
  • That would mean that every single thing is finished. It would be an extra emphasis.
    – Zikato
    Apr 16, 2015 at 5:39

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) identifies the following distinctions between complete and finish:

CLOSE, END, CONCLUDE, FINISH, COMPLETE, TERMINATE mean to bring or come to a stopping point or limit. ... FINISH may stress completion of a final step in a process {after it is painted, the house will be finished}. COMPLETE implies the removal of all deficiencies or a successful finishing of what has been undertaken {the resolving of this lat issue completes the agreement}.

S.I. Hayakawa, Choose the Right Word (1968) offers this comparison:

Finish and complete men to bring to an anticipated end by doing all things that are necessary or appropriate to achieving that end. Although the two words may be used as exact synonyms, complete suggests the fulfillment of an assigned task and is therefore not always an appropriate substitute for finish. An author may complete or finish his novel; a reader might finish it, but one would not say that he completed it unless he were reading it as a school assignment.

Given how close in meaning the two words are, I think Hayakawa's argument that complete tends to be more narrowly associated with assigned tasks than finish is makes a good point. In my experience, people say, for example, "Are you going to finish [or finish eating] your dessert?"—not "Are you going to complete [or complete eating] your dessert?"

Nevertheless, some degree of idiomatic variability is evident, too. For example, while one might argue that "writing a novel" is no more of an assigned task than "reading a novel," English speakers do not typically use the words completed and finished in exactly the same way to characterize the two activities. On the one hand, it sounds quite normal to me to say of an author either "She completed her novel" or "She finished her novel" as a way of indicating that the author had successfully reached the end of her work on the novel and that the manuscript was now ready for publication (or editing, as the case may be). But in speaking of a reader, "She finished the novel" seems far more natural than "She completed the novel" as a way of saying that the reader had read the novel all the way through. This perhaps reflects a distinction between finished as meaning "got done with" and completed as meaning "made whole": the author can be understood either to have got done with writing the novel or to have made the novel whole; but the reader can be understood only to have got done with reading it.


The terms are interchangeable in any context I can think of.

  • So you consider he finished his meal to be equivalent to he completed his meal?
    – oerkelens
    Jul 15, 2015 at 8:13
  • 1
    Point of fact, I do. Jul 17, 2015 at 5:09

Finished implies the actor state. Complete refers to the task state. Halfway through a marathon, a runner can be finished with the race and go home. The runners that completed the marathon have run its entirety.

Politically, a politician could be 'finished' if an egregious error were committed. However, it would be incorrect to say the politician was 'completed'. To complete a term implies success.

This is why waiters will ask 'are you finished' with a meal, especially when it is incomplete. A waiter asking 'are you complete?' would be asking an entirely different question that would have deep philosophical implications.

This demonstrates that the actor is finished (runner, politician, consumer) but the task is completed (marathon, election term, meal).


according to Sun Sherman: "When you marry the right woman, you are Complete. If you marry the wrong woman, you are Finished.

And when the right woman catches you with the wrong woman, you are Completely Finished!"

  • 1
    Already mentioned in comments on the question. Jul 14, 2020 at 19:14
  • This doesn't answer the question, either. Since you are new to the site, I won't downvote your answer :)
    – Steve
    Nov 3, 2021 at 20:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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