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Common mistake - consist, comprise or compose

Consist, comprise and compose are all verbs used to describe what something is ‘made of’. We don’t use them in continuous forms.


Their diet only consisted of fruit and seeds.

The whole group consists of students.

We only use the active form of consist of:

Their flat consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Not: Their flat is consisted of two bedrooms…


Comprise is more formal than consist:

The USA comprises 50 states.

We can also use it in the passive voice in the form ‘be comprised of’:

The course is comprised of ten lectures and five seminars on the theory of economics and banking.

Comprise, but not compose, can be used with the parts that make up something as the subject:

Oil and coal comprise 70% of the nation’s exports.

Compose of is even more formal than consist of and comprise. Compose of is only used in the passive voice:

Muscle is composed of different types of protein.

Typical errors
  • We don’t use consist, comprise and compose in a continuous form:

The whole group consists of students.

Not: The whole group is consisting of students.

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