Comprised of

Comprised of is an expression in English that means "to compose or constitute". While its use is common in writing and speech, it has been regarded by some language professionals as incorrect. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries regard the form "comprised of" as standard English usage, but according to Oxford the construction "x comprises of y and z" is considered incorrect. Synonymous phrasing includes "composed of", "consists of" and "comprises".


"Comprised of", with what is by far its most common meaning today, has occurred since the early 18th century. Here are some examples :
The works of major novelists, intellectuals and essayists have included "comprised of":
Among more recent examples, the Merriam Webster Dictionary attributes "about 8 percent of our military forces are comprised of women" to former US President Jimmy Carter.
It has been used in several newspapers, including The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New York Times.

In U.S. patents

"Comprised of" is used in U.S. patents as a transition phrase that means "consisting at least of". It is a less common form of "comprises"., 134,000 U.S. patents included "comprised of" language.

In U.S. law

In the context of legal usage, American lexicographer Bryan A. Garner writes that "The phrase is comprised of is always wrong and should be replaced by either is composed of or comprises."


Although comprise is a verb, comprised is an adjective if it takes as its complement a preposition phrase headed by of. The distinction between the verb comprise and adjective comprised is perhaps most easily understood via compose:
Treatments of this topic nearly always mistakenly speak of is composed of and is comprised of as passives. They aren't. Compose in its musical/literary sense does have a passive, but the part/whole sense doesn't. Nobody says *Brass is composed by copper and zinc. Instead we get Brass is composed of copper and zinc – and there is no understood by-phrase.

Specifically, comprised within "comprised of" is a participial adjective.
English has a number of adjectives that take as their complements preposition phrases headed by of. Common examples include afraid, aware, and convinced.
In the process of conversion from verb to adjective, complementation may change. The verb comprise does not license a preposition phrase headed by of: its meaning aside, *"The book comprises of a hundred pages" is ungrammatical. However, the adjective comprised requires it: both *"The book is comprised a hundred pages" and *"The book is comprised" are ungrammatical. Grammatically, this is patterned on the conversion of verb compose to adjective composed. However, the sentence "the book comprises a hundred pages" is neither ungrammatical nor tautological.

Malaysian English

In Malaysian English, not only the adjective comprised but also the verb comprise can take a preposition phrase headed by of. An example: "The ethnic population of Malaysia comprises of 50.4% Malays and 11% other bumiputras who form the majority of the population." Therefore, in Malaysian English, "comprised of" may be syntactically different from "comprised of" discussed in the remainder of this article.


The Oxford English Dictionary shows that the verb comprise has been used with a range of meanings. In its earliest known uses, it seems to mean "To lay hold on, take, catch, seize", a sense now obsolete. The word comes from French , but while the OED does not call obsolete every comprehension-related sense of comprise, its newest examples are from the 1850s. The OED presents "Of things material: To contain, as parts making up the whole, to consist of " as the fourth sense, first encountered in 1481. In the English of the 20th and 21st centuries, the part/whole meanings have been overwhelmingly important. Two are exemplified in:
  1. "The committee comprises three judges."
  2. %"Three judges comprise the committee".
The former is not disputed. The latter is less common, and is disputed. It may be the result of a centuries-old malapropism for compose, a malapropism that caught on. Malapropism or no, it is now well established. The OED gives use 8.b of comprise as "To constitute, make up, compose", and dates this back to 1794; and it has been used by respected writers.
One may say "The committee is composed of three judges", and also "Three judges compose the committee". Although the former is not a passive clause, it behaves like one semantically.
However, with the meaning of comprise that is the commonest, the parallel pair is not possible for comprise. Instead, it is only possible for the pair %"The committee is comprised of three judges", and %"Three judges comprise the committee", both disputed.


"Comprised of" is often deprecated. The authors of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation state that "comprised of" is never correct because the word comprise by itself already means "composed of".
CliffsNotes says "don't use the phrase 'is comprised of, but does not explain why.
As one of "7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to", University of Delaware journalism and English professor Ben Yagoda says "Don't use comprised of. Instead use composed of/made up of."
The style guide for the British newspapers The Guardian and The Observer says that "The one thing to avoid, unless you want people who care about such things to give you a look composed of, consisting of and comprising mingled pity and contempt, is 'comprised of'". Reuters' style guide also advises against using the phrase, as does the IBM style guide.
Simon Heffer elaborated on a short warning in his book Strictly English with a longer one in his Simply English: "A book may comprise fifteen chapters, but it is not comprised of them. Those who say or write such a thing are confusing it with composed of. Another correct way to make the point would be to say that the book 'was constituted of fifteen chapters' or that 'the fifteen chapters constituted the book'."
Despite these deprecations, in a 2011 survey, only 32 percent of the writers and editors on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary found "comprised of" unacceptable.
Certain usage guides warn their readers about the meaning of comprise – despite the appearance within respected dictionaries of the use they deprecate – but do not mention "comprised of". These include Gowers and Fraser's The Complete Plain Words and the style guides of The Economist and The Times. Other usage compendia have no comment on either "comprised of" or comprise. Although the Oxford English Dictionary notes that certain usages of other words are disparaged, it does not comment on the acceptability of "comprised of".
Overt defenses of "comprised of" are uncommon, but Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker considers its deprecation to be one of "a few fuss-budget decrees you can safely ignore". Oliver Kamm defends it, together with the verb comprise used in the active voice: "Merriam-Webster observes that this disputed usage has been in existence for more than a century. The active version of the disputed usage is older still. Neither is unclear in the context; both are legitimate." Conversely, Edinburgh University linguistics professor Geoffrey Pullum writes "I’d happily comply with an edict limiting comprise to its original sense … I see no reason to favor the inverted sense. There’s nothing virtuous about the ambiguity and auto-antonymy it promotes. It’s easier than you’d think for unclarity to arise about whether an author is saying some abstract X makes up Y or that it consists of Y."

Removal from Wikipedia

In 2015, many media outlets, starting with Backchannel, reported that Wikipedia editor Bryan "" Henderson had manually removed many instances of "comprised of" from the online encyclopedia. Some coverage praised the work as a uniquely focused effort for correctness, but others criticized it as grammatically misguided.
Geoffrey Pullum expressed approval of the principle mingled with doubt about its practicality, saying he would be happy for the editor's "clarifying mission to succeed. However, I wouldn't bet a dime on his success." Linguist Geoff Nunberg described the editor's ongoing "jihad" against the use of the phrase an "example of the pedant's veto" and that the community was "resigned to letting him have his way" despite its being illogical.