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This cross-cultural study investigated the semantic formulae of complaints employed by native Thai speakers speaking Thai (TTs) and native Chinese speakers speaking Chinese (CCs). A sample of 60 native Thai speakers speaking Thai (TTs) and 60 native Chinese speakers speaking Chinese (CCs) responded to a twelve-scenario Discourse Completion Task questionnaire and ranked the severity of the offence in each situation. The com- plaining data were coded into 12 semantic formulae based on Murphy and Neu’s (1996), Tanck’s (2002) and Gallaher’s (2011) models. The Mann–Whitney U test was employed to ﬁnd similarities and differences between TTs and CCs in the semantic formulae and a repeated measures test was employed to examine the effects of social distance and social status. The results showed that CCs complained more explicitly than TTs, since CCs perceived the offence as more serious than TTs. Although both TTs and CCs complained explicitly to a stranger of lower status, TTs complained less directly to an acquaintance of lower status than CCs did. Moreover, TTs complained more explicitly to an acquaintance than to an intimate whereas CCs complained more directly to an intimate than to an ac- quaintance. These ﬁndings may facilitate Thai-Chinese cross-cultural communication and even Thai and Chinese English as lingua franca (ELF) language teaching.