Some years ago I wrote a book review for a newsletter, which I commenced with ‘This book comprises…..” The editor of the newsletter (an American) changed that to “This book is comprised of….”. I spat the dummy. Anybody who doesn’t understand how to use the verb ‘comprise’, should not be an editor. Indeed, they should perhaps undertake remedial English classes.
It is very easy to understand. ‘Comprise’ is a verb which means ‘consist of’, ‘is made up of’. It is used in much the same way as ‘include’. However ‘comprise’ differs in that it means that it consists of something in its entirety. For instance, when you say that the English alphabet comprises 26 letters, this means that 26 letters make up the whole of the English alphabet. If you said that “the English alphabet comprises 5 vowels” that would be incorrect, because there are another 21 letters (the consonants) which also are part of the English alphabet.
‘Include’ is a verb which means ‘makes part of a whole’ So, if you stated that the English alphabet includes 26 letters, that would be incorrect, as it implies that there are some other letters in the English alphabet in addition to those 26. However, if you stated that the English alphabet includes 5 vowels, this would be correct, because those vowels form part of it, but not all of it.
The phrase ‘is comprised of’ is an abomination in the same way as ‘is included of’ is appalling. Nobody with English as their native language would use the latter, nor should they use the former. ‘Comprise’ is used in much the same way as ‘Include’, except that is covers all, not just some of the content of a particular item. I reiterate:
- The English alphabet includes 5 vowels
- The English alphabet comprises 26 letters, including 5 vowels
- Comprising 26 letters, the English alphabet has fewer letters than the Russian alphabet, which has 33.