The Grammar of 'Complain'

This page is to help you choose the right part of speech for complain / complaint / complained etc.

On this page: Grammar notes, prepositions, a situation and an exercise.

Grammar Notes:

Word Part of Speech Examples
to complain infinitive verb I would like to complain about your services.
complains third person verb He complains all the time.
complained past tense verb Customers complained about our services last year.

I complained to the customer service representative 2 weeks ago.

have complained present perfect verb Recently several customers have complained about this problem.
complaining continuous verb Customers are complaining about our services.
adjective We value complaining customers because they help us to improve.
gerund Complaining makes me feel better.
complaint noun I have received a complaint about our services.
(meaning: obedient / co-operative)
adjective The company is a compliant customer.


  • complain about + problem ( a noun or noun phrase); e.g. 'I would like to complain about your services'.
  • complain to + a person; e.g. 'I complained to the customer service representative'.
  • complained of + a medical problem; e.g. 'He complained of not sleeping well'.
  • complaint of + date the complaint was written; e.g. 'I received your complaint of '.
  • complaint on + date the complaint was received; e.g. 'I received your complaint on '.
  • complained that + clause; e.g. 'He complained that we had not answered his e-mails'.


Read this situation, then do the following exercise.

You are an administrator for Exhibitions International, a company which organises business exhibitions and trade fairs around the world. You have received the following letter of complaint about your company's most recent exhibition.

Flat 303 Lucky Mansions
856 Cheung Sha Wan Road
Cheung Sha Wan

The Administrative Officer
Exhibition Services
Exhibitions International
33 Kadoorie Avenue

Dear Sir/Madam

I attended your exhibition Sound Systems at the Fortune Hotel from and found it informative and interesting. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the event was spoiled by a number of organisational problems. I explain each of the problems below.

Firstly, I had difficulty in registering to attend the event. You set up an on-line registration facility, but I found the facility totally unworkable. Even after spending several wasted hours trying to register in this way, the computer would not accept my application. I eventually succeeded in registering by faxing you.

Secondly, the Sound Systems exhibition was held at one of Hong Kong's most prestigious hotels, but frankly the venue was better suited to a medium-sized business conference than to a large exhibition open by registration to the public. The lack of space led to serious overcrowding in the venue, particularly at peak visiting times (i.e. lunch times and early evening). On one or two occasions I was also seriously concerned about the physical safety of attendees.

The final point I want to make concerns product information. It is very enjoyable to see and test a range of excellent sound systems, but it is also important to be able to take away leaflets on interesting products, so that more research can be done before deciding which system to buy. However, by the time I attended the exhibition all the leaflets had been taken.

Could I please ask you to look into these matters - not only on my behalf but also on behalf of other attendees, and in fact on behalf of your company, too.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Michael Leung

Michael Leung





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Exhibitions International


 To: Anne Kong, Director of Exhibition Services
 From:    Kim Wong, Administrative Officer

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Last updated on: Monday, February 25, 2013