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Is It “Comprised Of” or “Comprises”?

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The truth behind “comprised of” may surprise you. We’ll go over which phrase you should use when it comes to “comprised of” and “comprises.”

Need comprises synonyms? We can help you out and also tell you whether it's comprises or comprised of.
“Comprised of” is a controversial phrase. But is it wrong? Keep reading to find out.
“Comprised Of” vs. “Comprises”

Comprise means “to be made up of.” Therefore, the whole comprises the parts, or in other words, the whole is made up of the parts.

The use of comprised of is controversial, and many style guides recommend using comprises or consists instead.

  • The team comprises five players.
  • The team consists of five players.

“Comprised Of” or “Comprises”: Which Is Correct?

The short answer is this: use comprises, not is comprised of.

The pack is comprised of ten markers and a drawing pad.

The pack comprises ten markers and a drawing pad.

Why? Because comprised of is hotly debated. Many strict grammarians argue that comprised of (often mistaken with compose of) is ungrammatical. However, you should know that comprise has a second meaning and that comprised of has been in use for over a century, even in well-edited publications.

But before we go down that rabbit hole, let’s first go over the word comprise.

“Comprise” Meaning

Comprise is a verb that means “to contain”, “consist of”, or “be made up of.”

The play will comprise two leading actors and three supporting actors.
I explained to my young daughter that the galaxy comprises trillions and trillions of stars.
The plaza comprises fifteen stores and six restaurants.
We will make a cake that comprises all the usual ingredients plus one secret ingredient.

So, to say that a pie comprises six slices is the same as saying that a pie is made up of six slices.

“Comprises” Synonyms

Comprises is the third-person present tense of comprise. If you want to avoid the whole comprised of or comprises debate altogether, you can play it safe by using their  synonyms instead. Below you’ll find two synonyms you can use in place of comprises.

1. Consists of

  • The house comprises three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
  • The house consists of three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

2. Is composed of

  • The compound comprises three apartment buildings.
  • The compound is composed of three apartment buildings.
In the quote above, you can replace “consists of” with “is composed of.”

Is “Comprised Of” Incorrect?

Although it’s been in use for centuries, many grammar enthusiasts criticize the use of comprised of.

However, it should be known that comprise has a second meaning: “compose or constitute.” According to Merriam-Webster, this use of the word (especially when used in the passive voice, e.g., The puzzle is comprised of 200 pieces) started getting contested in the early years of the 20th Century.

Confusion can arise, especially when the second sense of comprise is used in the active voice. Let’s evaluate the following sentences:

1. The studio comprises seven booths.

In the sentence above, comprises is being used in the first sense, so the sentence can be rewritten as:

The studio is made up of seven booths.

2. Seven booths comprise the studio.

Here, comprise is used in the second sense to mean “compose.” Therefore, it can be rewritten as:

Seven booths compose the studio.

As Merriam-Webster also explained, the second sense of the word used in the active voice “stands in direct opposition to the ‘to be made up of’ meaning.” In other words, when you write a sentence like seven booths comprise the studio, it can be interpreted in one of two ways: Seven booths are made up of the studio OR Seven booths compose the studio.

Do you see now how using the second sense of comprise in the active voice can be problematic?

In any case, yes comprised of has been used for centuries and considered acceptable by respected and well-edited publications. However, if you want to avoid a grammar debate, we recommend not using comprised of, and instead using comprises, consists of, or is composed of.

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