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?

  • You asked about "finish" and "complete"? I didn't get it... Editing my answer. :D – Alenanno Aug 27 '11 at 9:06
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    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

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."

  • @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
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    And, when the right woman catches you with the wrong women, you are 'Completely Finished' :) – Okky Jan 5 '15 at 12:29

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

  • Yes, easy to understand. You can finish a task at anytime. But you only can complete the task once at the end. – Nguyen Van Vinh Jul 25 '18 at 3:41

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