#224: How to Complain Politely in English

In today’s podcast, we’re talking all about how to complain in English. As you’re probably aware we have a culture of not really complaining, so when we do, we do it in an extremely polite way. So, we’ll teach you lots of phrases and tips on how to complain politely whether you’re at work, traveling, in restaurants, or hotels and in many more places.

Words You’ll Learn:

  • Exactly what the doctor ordered
  • All guns blazing
  • Save yourself some face
  • Excuse me vs pardon me
  • Backfire
  • Shoot yourself in the foot
  • Abhor
  • The ball is in your court
  • Hopeless romantic
  • Voucher / Store credit / Credit note
  • Gag

Quick Definitions:

  • Cutting-edge: highly advanced; innovative or pioneering.
  • Dreamy: having a magical or pleasantly unreal quality.
  • Upward intonation: ending with a rising intonation as if the sentence is a question.
  • Polite: behaving in a way that is socially correct and shows understanding and care of other people’s feelings.
  • Complain: to say something is wrong or unsatisfactory.
  • Hit the nail on the head: be exactly right about something.
  • Confrontational: tending to deal with situations in an aggressive way. (Ethan said he’s non-confrontational).
  • Factual: based on facts or relating to facts.
  • Get your message across: to manage to make someone understand or believe something.
  • Take it out on someone: To punish or mistreat someone or something as a means of expressing or giving vent to a strong, typically negative, emotion, such as anger or aggression. (Ethan says “don’t take your anger out on them”).
  • Shoot the messenger: used to describe the act of blaming the bearer of bad news, that is the person who delivers the news.
  • Lash out: to suddenly attack someone or something physically or criticize him, her, or it in an angry way.
  • To tip: to give someone who has provided you with a service extra money to thank them.
  • Love–hate relationship (with something): strong feelings about someone or something that are a mixture of love and hate.
  • Retail: the sale of goods in shops to customers.
  • Back in the day: used for talking about a time in the past, usually when you are remembering nice things about that time.
  • An honest mistake: A mistake made unintentionally or unknowingly and without the intention of causing harm.
  • A cheap shot: a critical statement that takes unfair advantage of a known weakness of the target.


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  • Andrew says:

    Good points! It isn’t necessarily to be an avid reader to improve your English, I mean, of course, you need to read regularly, but it might be whatever you want, not necessarily books. Despite the fact that I’ve read a few books in English, I mostly enjoy reading the articles that interest me and it helps me in the same way as books, so it’s up to you what to read, but you really need it, if you want to expand your vocabulary. Besides, I used not to comment anything on the Internet, but since I started to work on my English everything has changed)

    • Kinan haikal says:

      I believe that u have to work on so many aspects to get the results you are after ! There’s the reading part, the listening part plus the talking part .. all these combined will get u to the place where u wanna be ! So as long as we’re making effort ,we will be there it’s just a matter of time ! It’s really vital to immerse urself with English whenever u go !! Now let’s break a leg ✋✋

      • Andrew says:

        Couldn’t agree more)
        You should definitely work on all parts of the language, especially the ones you are not very good at yet. And yeah, making efforts is king, it just takes time, you’re right. Wish you all the best, buddy)

  • Kinan haikal says:

    It was a hell of a lesson !! We just have to have a what the hell attitude and be outspoken !! There’s no shame in Making mistakes but the problem comes when u catch urself making mistakes without u picking up on what trips u up !
    Saying thanks again so understatement ! There’s no in the books that could characterize u guys ! Without ur lessons I would be here in my English journey ! Loads of love to u guys ..
    My regards form Syria

  • Wilson says:

    This is an amazing podcast. I’m very proud of being one of the first people who discovered your channel on YouTube. I don’t know exactly the day but it was a long time ago there were just like four or five videos uploaded at that time. And I said to myself I have to subscribe and save this channel because it’s the first one who had taught me connected speech. I hadn’t heard about that topic before. Nowadays, there are other channels that speak a little bit about it but I still consider this channel the first one to talk deeply about this topic.

    • Agnieszka Tkacz says:

      Thank you Wilson for being with us! It means a lot!

  • Maede Moosavipour says:

    This was your first podcast that I listened to and really enjoyed. Thank you very much for what you said, because it was very useful for me, that I’m learning the language myself.😎✌🏻
    I’ve been a fan of your videos on YouTube for a long time, and God knows how great they are.😍 I enjoy receiving your emails every day and my motivation to read the language increases.
    I wish you all the best.💛

    • Agnieszka Tkacz says:

      Thank you Maede for your warm words. We appreciate it very much!

      • Brenda Fuentes says:

        I also want to thank you for the podcast, this is the first time I visit this blog and I really like it. I believe listening is very important to have good audios as this in order to practice and improve our English level.

        • Agnieszka says:

          It totally is! You’re doing a great job!

  • Nilra says:

    Good topic! Very interesting and I agree totally, I appreciate people that are polite even in stressful situations, I remember now a bad situation that my husband and I went through when we were traveling in the USA, we were at a water park and my husband doesn’t speak English at all and at that time my English was rustic. In the park, there were several chairs for you tanning and we took one to sit down, my husband was alone for a minute and when I was coming back, this guy was talking to him, my husband said politely that he didn’t speak in English and when I got there I tried to understand him, he was with his wife and daughter, but he spoke so fast and he was pissed (angry) and I caught kind that they had let some stuff there where we were and I said: “sorry, when we arrived here, there was anything here, we didn’t see anything”, and this guy just wasn’t accepting that, as if we had been stolen them, he was yelling at us and almost attacked physically my husband. Of course, I should have mentioned that we were foreign and I wasn’t understanding him very well and ask him to speak slowly but anyway, maybe it wouldn’t help and I got shocked how people lose their cool, fortunately, his wife said to him to forget about that and they went away.

  • Armando Padilla says:

    Great postcasts…i enjoy listening to them…