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I have a question regarding the usage of the words to and with in the sentence "He lodged a complaint to/with the Authorities".

Which is correct?

Note: Lodge in this context is "to present (a complaint, appeal, claim, etc.) formally to the proper authorities".

I have been told that, in the said sentence, with is correct and not to.

But, I am confused as to why with is correct and used more often than to, especially since the definition of with is "accompanied by (another person or thing)", while to is defined as "identifying the recipient or intended recipient of something".

How could someone lodge a complaint with the Authorities? In my mind, with denotes that a person is lodging a complaint together with the Authorities.

Could someone explain this to me?

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5 Answers 5

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First off, it's indeed with, not to. You lodge, or file, or register, or raise a complaint with someone. However, you can also submit, bring, take, or send it to someone.

Here are some stats from the Corpus of Contemporary American English just to drive the point home:

filed a complaint with/to    131/1
file a complaint with/to      42/2
filing a complaint with/to    11/0
lodged a complaint with/to     6/1
lodge a complaint with/to      5/0
files a complaint with/to      4/0
lodges a complaint with/to     1/0

Why? There is really no why, especially not when it comes to prepositions. One is idiomatic, the other one isn't. You learn to use with from your mom because that's what she uses. And she in turn learned it from her mother. That is all there is to it.

This is not really too different from how you use "a car" to mean "a car". It might just as well have been "uma João". But you say "a car". And prepositions in particular are more idiomatic than anything else. They do not have to follow some logic, and indeed often don't. In every language, not just English.

And one last thing. You say "the definition of 'with' is 'accompanied by (another person or thing)'". That is not true. That is one definition of 'with'. A good dictionary will have a dozen more, including one that covers "lodge/file a complaint with". Usage follows definition, but definition also follows usage.

Note how if you say "I'm married with three kids", you don't label yourself a polygamous pedophile, either. And as I commented on that other question, in German, which is closely related to English, one is actually married with someone and it's "married to" that would be ungrammatical. In Russian, you'd be married on your wife, while she is married behind you. That goes to show that there is no one true universal meaning to any given preposition. Current usage = coincidence + tradition.

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  • In this case, I think, there is a why. Though today complaints are often in written format, a complaint (it goes back to C14) connotes physically going to someone and going over something with them. I think it's comparable to seeing with somebody: If you need, i can see with him about the rental. See with the DMV about getting a replacement title.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 16:46
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    I am not seeing such a connection, sorry. And even if I did, it would be nothing more than justification in hindsight. It still doesn't explain why it's not to or at. After all you physically go to that someone and file the complaint at their place. You can twist and turn it any way you like it. Perhaps even more to the point, you are not really filing a complaint with them, you are filing the complaint against them. When you see with X about the rental, X is helping you; he is your ally. When you file a complaint with him, he is your opponent.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 18:50
  • I don't know... To do any of it, you "have to" be with them, the real persons, in a physical sense, not in any cooperative. I think the with might be conveying the social aspect of the action.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 20:11
  • Thank you both for the deep insight and comments. I feel so inadequate in the English Language even though it is my first language. Both examples given by both Reg and Talia were really helpful. :) Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 2:43
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I would say that using 'with' would suggest that your complaint is about the authorities, whereas using 'to' suggests that you're complaining to the authorities, but that the cause of the complaint isn't necessarily of their doing.

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  • I disagree: if you object to your neighbour's behaviour, you lodge a complaint with the police or the council (by delivering a letter to the station/office). Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 14:21
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I feel more comfortable with "with" ( excuse me ), for the reason that the verb "lodge" seems still to retain more of its original locative sense than a sense of movement or direction. Verb+preposition collocations can be quite arbitrary, however: to wit, "She made a complaint to the authorities", in which the verb, although semantically fairly light, is nevertheless clearly not a verb of movement or direction. I gather fom the O.E.D. (online version ); lodge a complaint with (authority)/against (person causing grievance), but the citations are 18th and 19th century sources!

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You may complain to the authorities in regard to your neighbor. You may lodge a complaint with the authorities against your neighbor. When you lodge or file a complaint, it is being taken and held by the recipient of the complaint - possibly for use at a later time - such as a court or for keeping record of complaints against that particular individual in order to build a case against them. Lodging a complaint makes the complaint official. Lodging it with the authorities is for the purpose of official record - which then will be kept with the authorities. You are placing or parking it there. With the authorities. If you complain to them, it is not necessarily kept. But if you lodge it with them, it’s staying there. On record. To lodge is basically to place something for safe keeping.

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  • You could probably rephrase this to make your answer more explicit! Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 13:40
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When you lodge a complaint, you mostly do it "with" the authorities. It is very uncommon to lodge/file/etc a complaint "to" an instance. While it is possible to use to, it can be somehow similar to lodging a complaint "against" an instance. Mostly when you use "to", it is to state a reason. You lodge a complaint to receive compensation. But you still do it "with" the instance. So, you lodge a complaint with the authorities to receive compensation.

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  • But if the complaint is verbal, you complain to the authorities, and if it's a letter or email, you address and send it to the recipient, which shreds your argument. "I'm talking to you", "He's writing to them", "We're going to work" the "to" transfers/communicates something to someone/something. There is no logical or grammatical reason why you cannot say "lodge a complaint to someone", but were it for to me to decide what everyone should use, I'd go for lodge a complaint against someone.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 8:15

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