the difference between words: claim and complain


Today’s entry is about a big misunderstanding many Japanese people have about the word “claim”. The Japanese language has borrowed many words from English and then changed the original meaning, so this leads to a lot of confusion. Many people in Japan think that to claim something means to complain about it. This is absolutely not true! The word “claim” has about four meanings:

1. for a person to say something without providing proof for their statement. This is often used when we have a doubt about the truth of the statement. For example:

My friend claims he saw a UFO last night.

The man was arrested for his wife’s murder, but he claims he didn’t do it.

2. to identify something as yours and then to take it. For example:

Someone found my wallet and took it to the Lost and Found, so I went there yesterday to claim it.

You said there would be a $100 reward for the person who found your dog. Well, I found her, so now I’m here to claim the reward.

I’ll get my bags at the baggage claim area and then meet you at immigration.

(The area at the airport where you collect your luggage is called the baggage claim area because that’s where you identify your bags and pick them up.)

3.  to write something down on a tax form in order to pay less tax or on an insurance form to get money back from the insurance company. For example:

I gave a lot of money to charity last year, so I can claim those donations on my taxes.

A: If you pay money for medication, your insurance company will let you claim that.

B: That’s great. That will save me a lot of money.

4. for a disaster to take the lives of people who were in it. For example:

The earthquake last week claimed the lives of over 10,000 people.

The fire in my apartment claimed the life of my landlord, but everyone else escaped.

So this is how we use the word “claim”. The word “complain” is used when we talk about situations or people that we don’t like. It can be done in an official way or just in a casual conversation. For example:

I complained to my landlord about the noise coming from my neighbor’s apartment.

I’d like to complain about the service in this restaurant. My waiter was very rude to me.

My co-worker is always complaining about having to work overtime.

Susan is having problems with her husband, and she complains about him all the time now.

So, this is how we use these two words in natural English.


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