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

Shaun Connell
March 5, 2024

Are you looking for an explanation of the difference between 'complaint' vs. 'complain?' I can help!

Here is a brief overview in case you need a quick answer: 

  • 'Complaint' is a noun that means the expression of a grievance, allegation, or ailment. 
  • 'Complain' is a verb that means to express a grievance, allegation, or ailment. 

Learn exactly how to use each word in this guide with definitions, sentence samples, and writing tips.

What's the Difference Between 'Complaint' vs. 'Complain?'

'Complaint' and 'complain' are similar words. However, 'complaint' is a noun, while 'complain' is a verb.

  • So, you use 'complaint' to describe someone's expression of a grievance, ailment, or allegation. 'Complaints' can be written or verbal.
  • 'Complain' is a verb or action word. So, you use it to say that you or someone else is expressing a grievance, ailment, or allegation.

Definition of 'Complaint': What Does 'Complaint' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'complaint' as a noun that means:

  • Expression of grief, dissatisfaction, or pain
  • Something that causes or is the subject of outcry or protest
  • A bodily disease or ailment
  • A formal allegation against another

Synonyms of 'Complaint'

Knowing synonyms or words you can use instead of another is beneficial as a writer. It helps you keep your writing fresh and interesting. So, here are some synonyms you can use for 'complaint.'

  • Grievance
  • Whine
  • Lament
  • Moan
  • Bitch
  • Gripe
  • Whimper
  • Objection
  • Murmur
  • Beef
  • Grumble
  • Grouse
  • Plaint
  • Squawk
  • Whinge
  • Challenge
  • Wail
  • Bleat
  • Holler
  • Grouch
  • Quibble
  • Expostulation
  • Stink

Definition of 'Complain': What Does 'Complain' Mean?

The same dictionary defines 'complain' as a verb that means:

  • To express discontent, grief, or pain
  • To make an official or formal charge or accusation

Synonyms of 'Complain'

Here is a list of synonyms for 'complain.' Notice that any of the synonyms of these two words are the same. However, 'complaint' and 'complain' are not synonyms.

  • Whine
  • Grumble
  • Bitch
  • Moan
  • Scream
  • Mutter
  • Whimper
  • Whinge
  • Cry
  • Gripe
  • Repine
  • Squawk
  • Holler
  • Wail
  • Bleat
  • Bellyache
  • Fuss
  • Grouse
  • Protest
  • Yammer
  • Kick
  • Caterwaul
  • Carp
  • Yowl
  • Grump
  • Yaup
  • Croak
  • Lament
  • Sob
  • Deplore
  • Bewail
  • Blubber
  • Bemoan

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Complaint' and 'Complain'

Another important aspect of learning how to use similar words like these is pronunciation. Whether you are giving a speech or talking to a group of friends, you gain credibility and confidence when you use proper pronunciation.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can reference: 

  • Use this phonetic spelling for 'complaint':


  • Use this phonetic spelling for 'complain':


Writing Tips: When and How to Use 'Complaint' vs. 'Complain'

Whether you are just starting a career as a freelance writer or an experienced author, using words like 'complaint' and 'complain' can be challenging. So, here are some tips to help you determine when and how to use each word.

  • Use 'complaint' when you are talking about a verbal grievance.

For example, you could say:

Her complaint was heard by everyone in the room. 

  • Use 'complain' as a verb to say that someone is expressing a grievance.

As an example, I might say:

I hate to complain, but I asked for the chicken pasta, and there is no chicken on my dish. 

  • Use 'complaint' as a noun for a written grievance.

So, you could say:

The criminal complaint states that the defendant committed a crime against the plaintiff. 

  • Use 'complain' as a verb to speak about someone making a formal charge or accusation.

For example, I might say:

My coworker told me that the other members of her team were not pulling their weight, so I told her to complain to her supervisor.

Sample Sentences Using 'Complaint' and 'Complain'

Now, take a look at these sample sentences using these terms. They will help you remember the difference between 'complaint' vs. 'complain' and learn additional ways to use them.


  • The formal complaint was submitted on the 21st of January, 2009.
  • If you are unhappy with the service you received, make an official complaint to the manager.
  • The complaint against the high school teacher was disturbing.
  • If you have any concerns, I welcome you to submit a formal complaint.
  • Complaints are always taken seriously here.


  • If you complain all the time, no one will pay attention to you when you have a genuine concern.
  • The students complained that the writing prompts were uninspiring.
  • When we first arrived at the first destination on our journey, I couldn't complain. But after being there for a few hours, several things made me unhappy.
  • All Sally does is complain. It is annoying because she doesn't realize any of her blessings.
  • Complaining about the deadline won't do you any good. Your essay will still be due on the same day as the rest of the class.


  • When I complained about the progress my book editor had made, I was stressed and overwhelmed. In hindsight, my complaint may have been unwarranted.
  • The patron complained so often that the management team threw her complaint in the trash without looking at it.
  • In the complaint, the affiant complains that the victim was last seen on the 31st of October at a Halloween party.
  • The customer complained after seeing a sign hanging over the trash can that said, 'Submit your complaints here.'

Wrapping Up: The Difference Between 'Complaint' vs. 'Complain'

Finally, let me recap what you learned in this guide about the difference between 'complaint' vs. 'complain': 

  • 'Complaint' is a noun that refers to an expression of grief or a formal charge or accusation. 
  • 'Complain' is a verb that means to express a grievance, dissatisfaction, or formal accusation. 

You do not have to know everything about grammar, spelling, and pronunciation to be an amazing writer. However, you do have to commit to constantly learning and improving your craft.

Furthermore, having resources that help you learn about confusing terms and verify which words to use is also beneficial.

You can use this site to learn about new words, confirm which term to use, and stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices for freelance writers.

So, check out a few other guides here before you leave and return often.

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Written By:
Shaun Connell
Shaun Connell has spent his entire career either working as a freelance writer or hiring freelance writers for his many successful publications. Shaun has learned the exact tricks of the trade to hire the perfect writer for almost any niche.

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