be in to complain

< Previous | Next >

sueno dulce

Senior Member

I want to know the difference two sentence and the meaning of 'in to complain'.

<Tonight, though, there hadn't been time. She didn't want Father asking why they(Mom and son) were late. She wouldn't want him to know they had been in to complain.>
- Extracted from Hanif Kurureishi's 'We're not Jews.>

1. what is the difference between 'didn't want' and 'wouldn't want'?

2. Does 'they had been in to complain' mean <they had come to protest>?

Please, help me understand them clearly.
  • alec12

    New Member
    English (American)

    First of all, this whole sentence is slightly forced sounding.

    I would say the difference between "didn't want" and "wouldn't want" has to do with the tense and time. If you say "I didn't want him to know" it could mean that he has already found out, and that you regret his finding out.

    However, since your whole sentence is in the past, when you say "she didn't want him to know..." it sounds more normal.

    you could also say "she wouldn't have wanted him to know"

    part two: "they had been in to complain"

    You are correct to say that it means "they had come to protest" but I have never really heard that phrase in modern usage.

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hanif Kureishi is a British author. The text does not sound forced to me. "They had been in to complain" does not suggest to me that that they had come to protest at that moment. It would appear that they were late because they had earlier "been in to complain". "Been in" suggests a visit to a familiar, often-visited, place. The place in question place cannot be determined from the text quoted at post #1 but must have been identified ealier in the narrative. However, I am not entirely sure what has happened and what might yet happen in this scene. The situation is not yet clear to me. I feel that some background information is required:
    1) Why hadn't there been time tonight?
    2) What had there been no time for tonight?
    3) Why didn't "she" (= the mother?) want Father asking why they were late?
    4) When did they go in to complain?
    5) Why do they not want Father to know that they have been in to complain?
    6) Where did they go to complain?
    7) What was their complaint about?
    8) Do they avoid Father or do they meet him?
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >