'Complaint' vs 'Complain: What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on February 21, 2023

‘Complaint’ and ‘complain’ sound and look very similar, but what’s the difference between these two words? And how to you use them properly? We’ll go over that in detail in this article, plus teach you how to use both words correctly in a sentence.

Need a quick answer? Here it is:

  • ‘Complain’ is a verb and means expressing pain, discomfort, or unease.
  • ‘Complaint’ is used as a noun and refers to the actual expression of discomfort, pain, or grief.

While the words look similar, they have slightly different meanings.

What is the Difference Between ‘Complain’ and ‘Complaint’?

You just learned the subtle differences between these two words. The former is expressed as a verb, and the latter is expressed as a noun.

  • For example, you’d say that someone has made a ‘complaint’ (a written or verbal account of their issue), but you’d say that you don’t want to ‘complain.’

So, you can see the difference is slight, but it exists. Therefore, you should never use the words interchangeably.

‘Complaint’ vs. ‘Complain’ – What’s the Difference?

The difference between these very similar words is the way they’re used.

You might say someone made a complaint. But you wouldn’t say that they made a ‘complain.’

You could say that they complain a lot, but not that they ‘complaint’ a lot.

But you could say that they made a lot of ‘complaints.’

Definition and Meaning of ‘Complaint’ and ‘Complain’

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘complaint’ is an expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction, or something that’s the cause or subject of protest or outcry.

It might also refer to a disease or ailment affecting the body or a formal allegation against a party.

‘Complain’ as a verb is defined as to express grief, pain, or discontent or to make a formal accusation or charge.

Synonyms of the word(s) include:

  • Beef
  • Grip
  • Fuss
  • Holler
  • Lament
  • Grievance
  • Moan
  • Grouse
  • Murmur
  • Carp
  • Grumble
  • Whine

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Complain’ and ‘Complain’

Are you wondering how to pronounce these words correctly? Here’s a quick guide.

  • To pronounce ‘complaint’ correctly, here’s the phonetic spelling: kUHmplAYnts
  • To pronounce ‘complain’ correctly, here’s the phonetic spelling: kuhm-PLAYN

How to Use ‘Complaint’ in a Sentence

Let’s see some examples of how to use ‘complaint’ in a sentence.

  • We all wonder who wrote up a complaint about Marshall and gave it to Human Resources.
  • Sister Betty always has a complaint about one of the other members of the church. It’s starting to get annoying trying to accommodate her.
  • Lily made a complaint about her desk being just two feet from her co-worker. She has a point; it’s pretty cramped in here.
  • I made a complaint about the margarita I got at happy hour. It tasted horrible.

How to Use ‘Complain’ in a Sentence 

Now, let’s see some examples of ‘complain’ in a sentence.

  • I don’t want to complain, but there’s a hair in my food.
  • She didn’t want to complain to her dad, but she didn’t have a choice. She needed help.
  • If there’s no ketchup on the table, you don’t have to complain. Just ask the waitress for a new bottle.
  • No one likes to complain and seem like a sourpuss. But sometimes, it’s necessary to get what you want.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Complaint’ and ‘Complain’ 

To recap, we learned that the difference between these words is:

  • ‘Complain’ is a verb is used to express pain, discomfort, or unease.
  • ‘Complaint’ is as a noun and refers to the actual expression of discomfort, pain, or grief. A written statement could be a complaint.

These words might look similar, but they have slightly different meanings.

If you ever get stuck on anything, you can always come back to review what you have already learned. We’ve got a whole library of content on confusing words and phrases you might have trouble with while learning the language. Go check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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