Monday, October 15, 2007

Complain and Complaint

While calling to complain about errors in my phone bill, I realized that the difference (and the corresponding usage) of complain and complaint can be confusing for people. The two words, after all, mean similar things and in all cases, also carry the same bad feelings. What's the difference between the two?

Complain is a verb which means "to express grief, anger, or disappointment about something or someone." It also means "to make an accusation." So, I call to complain about the mistakes in my bill (I'm disappointed about these mistakes and I'm also accusing the company of mismanaging my account). As a verb, complain can be in the past tense: "I complained to the manager already."

Complaint, though, is a noun. As a noun, it's a name for the grievance, the disappointment, or the problem being discussed. It is then used to refer to the issue a person is complaining about. So, "My complaint is about the bills I've been receiving for a service that I don't use."

Here's the rule: if you're talking about the act of discussing a disappointment, use complain. If you're talking about the particular thing causing the disappointment, use complaint. Check out this exchange:

Prixie: I'd like to file a complaint about the mistakes in my bill.
Customer Service Guy: Ok, ma'am, I will prepare a customer service file for you.
Prixie: I've complained about this before. You haven't done anything about it!
Customer Service Guy: I'm sorry ma'am, let me work on this complaint as soon as possible.
Prixie: You better! I don't want to have to complain again!

I hope I've made the difference between the two words clear. Remember, it's never wise to complain too much, unless the issue you're facing is really hurtful. Have a nice complaint-free day!

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