Sorry! Search is currently unavailable while the database is being updated, it will be back in 5 mins!

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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?

 Play Caption


Lerne warten, ohne zu klagen.

Learn to wait without complaining.

Caption 26, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Esel

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


Und daran gibt es nichts zu meckern.

And there's nothing to complain about there.

Caption 25, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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.

Fractions and Decimals

You know how to count in German, and perhaps you've read our lesson on large numbers. But what about fractions and numbers with decimals? Let's first have a look at some fractions, called die Brüche or die Bruchzahlen in German. If you know how to tell time in German, some of these will be familiar.


Ein Pfund, das sind fünfhundert Gramm, also ein halbes Kilo.

A pound, that's five hundred grams, so half a kilo.

Caption 24, Nicos Weg: Mengen und Preise

 Play Caption


Etwa auf der Hälfte des deutschen Autobahnnetzes gilt kein allgemeines Tempolimit.

There is no general speed limit on about half of the German autobahn network.

Caption 3, AutoMotoTV: Schnell fahren auf der Autobahn

 Play Caption


In the two examples above, we can see that halb means "half" in German, and die Hälfte is correct in certain contexts as well. 


Außerdem können sich laut einer Umfrage über zwei Drittel der Deutschen, also die Mehrheit, vorstellen, durch ehrenamtliche Hilfe Flüchtlinge zu unterstützen.

In addition, according to a survey, over two-thirds of all Germans, that is, the majority, could imagine supporting refugees through voluntary aid.

Captions 28-29, Flüchtlingskrise: 10 Vorurteile, die nicht stimmen

 Play Caption


Drei Viertel aller großen Metropolen der Erde mit Einwohnerzahlen über zehn Millionen befinden sich in Küstengebieten.

Three-quarters of all major metropolises on Earth with populations of over ten million are located in coastal areas.

Captions 63-64, Evolution: Die Küsten

 Play Caption


After ein Drittel ("one-third") and ein Viertel ("one-fourth"), there is ein Fünftel, ein Sechstel, ein Siebtel, ein Achtel, ein Neuntel, ein Zehntel... continuing up to ein Hunderstel and ein Tausendstel.


In anderthalb Jahren macht er seine Prüfung und ist dann Elektroniker.

In one and a half years, he'll take his test and then he'll be an electronics technician.

Caption 61, Deutsche Welle: Lieber Ausbildung als Studium

 Play Caption


Hier gilt ein Drohnenflugverbot im Umkreis von eineinhalb Kilometern zum Flughafen.

A drone flight ban within a radius of one and a half kilometers from the airport applies here.

Caption 18, Rhein-Main-TV Strengere Regeln: Lohnt sich eine Drohne überhaupt noch?

 Play Caption


As you can see, there are two ways to express "one and a half" in German. Numbers containing "one half" are always written as a single word: dreieinhalb is "three and a half." Now consider the following numbers and note what is capitalized: ein drei Viertel (one and three-quarters), zwei vier Fünftel (two and four-fifths), fünf sieben Achtel (five and seven-eighths). 

When it comes to numbers with decimals (die Dezimalbrüche), you may have noticed that Germans use a comma instead of a decimal point. So in English, we say "one point five" (written 1.5), while in German you would say eins Komma zwei (written 1,5). However, there are instances in both languages where the comma or decimal point won't be expressed verbally. Take a look:


In der Stadt leben rund drei Komma sieben Millionen Menschen.

Around three point seven million people live in the city.

Caption 11, Bundesländer und ihre Rezepte: Bundesland Berlin

 Play Caption


Achtunddreißig Komma sechs, das ist leichtes Fieber.

Thirty-eight point six, that's a slight fever.

Caption 25, Mein Weg nach Deutschland: Beim Arzt

 Play Caption


Er ist circa eins fünfzig groß, blonde, halblange Haare.

He's about one fifty tall [one hundred and fifty centimeters], blonde, medium-length hair.

Caption 53, Großstadtrevier: Nicht mit mir

 Play Caption


Further Learning
You can watch this video on Yabla German for a good overview. When you see a statistic that includes a decimal point in the news or elsewhere, see if you can quickly translate the number mentioned into German!


You may know the German phrase Halt die Ohren steif, which is the equivalent of "Keep your chin up." These are tough times, and even if we generally are able to do this, it's sometimes hard not to complain about our current circumstances or the things we might be missing out on. 

The most common verb for "to complain" in German is the reflexive verb sich beschweren. You can see in the second example below that it is used with the preposition über and the accusative. 


Was ist los?

What is going on?

-Ach, nichts. Passt schon. Ich will mich nicht beschweren.

-Oh, nothing. It's OK. I don't want to complain.

Caption 29, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme

 Play Caption


Ich habe mich bei ihm über meinen Nachbarn beschwert.

I complained to him about my neighbor.

Caption 30, Nicos Weg - A2 Folge 14: Nachbarschaft

 Play Caption


You may also see the verbs klagen and reklamieren. The verb klagen is also used in a legal context and means to file a lawsuit against someone.The verb reklamieren is particularly used for customer complaints (die Reklamationen), for example if an item is defective. 


Wenn Kinder über Kopf- oder Bauchschmerzen klagen,

If children complain about head- or stomachaches,

nicht mehr zur Schule gehen wollen und sich zurückziehen,

no longer want to go to school and withdraw,

dann sollten Eltern hellhörig werden.

then parents should listen up.

Captions 28-30, Mobbing in der Schule - Mehr als Streit

 Play Caption


Vielleicht reklamiert sie was.

Maybe she's issuing a complaint.

Caption 12, Großstadtrevier - Nicht mit mir

 Play Caption


A common slang term for "to complain" is meckern. This verb actually means to bleat like a goat, but is used to express whining or grumbling.


Und daran gibt es nichts zu meckern.

And there's nothing to complain about there.

Caption 25, Die letzten Paradiese - Die Schönheit der Alpen

 Play Caption


Von uns Westberlinern wird gesagt, dass wir nur meckern,

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

aber die meckern ja nur noch mehr.

but they just complain even more.

Captions 51-52, Heute-Show - 30 Jahre Mauerfall: So feiern die Deutschen ihre Einheit

 Play Caption

Further Learning
Practice using the verb sich beschweren in various tenses, and don't forget to alter the reflexive pronoun. You can search for the infinitive sich beschweren and the participle beschwert on Yabla German to find further examples.