The very importnat difference between Complete & finished that not many people know!

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Complete Vs. Finish – How to tell them apart?

After going through the definitions of Complete and Finish as well as looking at their usages and examples, it is now time for us to analyze the two words carefully and clearly to understand the differences between them.

One difference that is easy to notice is that the two words each can play a role that the other cannot. While Complete can play the role of an adjective, Finish, on the other hand, can present in a sentence as a noun. Otherwise, it is commonly thought that there is little or no differences in the meanings between Complete and Finish but it’s not true. Here are some distinctions between them.

1 Complete = Fulfill & Finish = End

Complete and Finish both share the meaning of getting something done. However, the degree in which that thing gets done is different when using each word.

‘To complete something’ means to fulfill it. Basically, you do not just wrap it up and stop doing it. But you actually give your best performance and try hard to get the best (desired) results.

In other words, to finish something means to end it. You simply don’t do it anymore.

When you say:

  • “I finished my studies…” → Your studies have ended. You no longer go to school. There is a likelihood that you have graduated but it is also likely that you drop out of school or you are expelled.
  • “I completed my studies…” → Clearly, you have passed all the exams and graduate from school.

For example:

  • He hasn’t finished speaking. (He hasn’t ended his speech yet)
  • They wanted the project to be completed on time. (They want the project to be done – with you doing your best until there is nothing else could be done anymore)

2 Complete – long term project & Finish – short-duration activity

Finish is used more to depict actions that last for a relatively short duration – like finishing a meal,  a running race or a marathon.

  • He finished eating his lunch hurriedly.
  • He finished last but one in the half marathon.

Complete is more likely to be used to talk about events that last for days, months or even years like long-term projects.

  • Government projects often get completed at least a year behind schedule.
  • ISRO completed its mission to send a satellite to Moon.

3 Complete – All the tasks & Finish – One of many tasks

If you are talking about work:

→ using Finish means that you have done a certain part of the job or one of the assigned tasks.

→ using Complete which means that you have completed all the assigned tasks/responsibilities.

For example, you have to build a new house. There are many tasks to do: building the foundation, building the walls, building the roof, painting, etc.

When you are done building the walls → You finished building the walls.

When you are done building the house → You completed building the house.

4 If there is something more to come – It is not Complete!

Let’s take a look at this example: The whole world are waiting for the last season of Game of Thrones. The previous season finished in March. When the next season finishes, Game of Thrones will be complete(d).

When “The End” is declared, an act is completed. When there is scope for more to come, it is finished but not yet completed.

5 And finally, Complete and Finish in marriage context!

To light things up, let’s see how Samsundar Balgobin – a famous linguist uses Complete and Finish to define marriage in ‘A Marriage Joke’

People say there is no difference between COMPLETE & FINISH

BUT there is!

When you marry the right one, you are COMPLETE

And when you marry the wrong one, you are FINISHED

And when the “right one” catches you with the “wrong one”, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED.

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