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Complain, Complain, Complain

Not that there's any shortage of things to complain about the last few years, but even in better times, Berliners are especially fond of complaining. In winter, it's always too cold outside, and as soon as it gets warm, it's always too hot! And with a recent court decision, which for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany has rendered the results of last September's Berlin elections null and void, everyone has to go in February 2023 and vote on the identical ballot again. Not only is that something to complain about, but since I recently moved out of Berlin, I won't even be able to take part in the revision election because I no longer meet the residential qualifications to be allowed to vote. So I stood in line for two and half hours to vote last September—only to have my vote rendered null and void. Not that I am complaining or anything!


Let's take a look today at some of the standard and slang German verbs for "to complain."


70 Prozent der Lehrer beschweren sich darüber, dass die sanitären Einrichtungen nicht gut sind.

70 percent of teachers complain about the fact that the sanitary facilities are not good.

Captions 13-14, heute-show: Hazel Brugger will Lehrerin werden

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Aber er wagte es nicht, sich über die harte, langweilige Arbeit zu beschweren.

But he didn't dare complain about the hard, boring work.

Caption 8, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Der Zauberlehrling

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As you see above, one of the most common German proper verbs that means "to complain" is the reflexive verb sich beschweren.


Ja, und die jammern nicht, die klagen nicht...

Yes, and they don't whine, they don't complain...

Caption 23, Umwelt und Natur: Wo sind all die Bienen hin?

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Lerne warten, ohne zu klagen.

Learn to wait without complaining.

Caption 26, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Esel

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The slang verb jammern is also often translated as "to complain." Be careful with the verb klagen, however, as it can also mean "to sue" or "to file a lawsuit."


Vielleicht reklamiert sie was.

Maybe she's issuing a complaint.

Caption 12, Großstadtrevier: Nicht mit mir

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The verb reklamieren is an official kind of complaint, and means more than just complaining verbally. It can also mean to return a product you have purchased: Ich habe den Fernseher reklamiert means "I returned the television."


Ich beklagte mich beim Kellner über das kalte Essen.
I complained to the waiter about the cold food.


And yet another reflexive verb, sich beklagen, is often translated as "to complain." Let's move on now to some more slang words for "to complain," not forgetting the verb jammern mentioned above.


Von uns Westberlinern wird gesagt, dass wir nur meckern.

People say about us West Berliners that all we do is complain.

Caption 51, heute-show: 30 Jahre Mauerfall

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Und daran gibt es nichts zu meckern.

And there's nothing to complain about there.

Caption 25, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen

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The slang verb meckern can also, depending upon the context, be translated as "to grumble," "to whine," and occasionally "to scold."


Sie gruben und schaufelten, buddelten und hievten, knurrten und murrten, ächzten und stöhnten, aber den Topf voller Geld, den fanden sie nicht.

They dug and shoveled, burrowed and heaved, growled and grumbled, moaned and groaned, but the pot full of money—they didn't find it.

Captions 49-51, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die drei Brüder

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The verb knurren, often translated as "to growl," and the verb murren, often translated as "to grumble" or "to mumble," are also sometimes translated as "to complain." Only the verb knurren is considered to be slang, however.

Further Learning
Look up the verbs you learned today on Yabla German and see how they are variously translated in different contexts:


(sich) beklagen
(sich) beschweren


Remember that the word search will sometimes work better if you just search for the verb's root and an asterisk (murr* for murren) because then you can find videos with different tenses.

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