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understand - definition and synonyms


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verb [never progressive] understand pronunciation in British English /ˌʌndə(r)ˈstænd/
Word Forms
present tense
present participleunderstanding
past tenseunderstood
past participleunderstood
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  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to know what someone or something means
    If you don’t understand, just put your hand up.
    The instructions were difficult to understand.
    I don’t understand a word you’re saying.
    Luke nodded as if he understood perfectly.
    understand what/where/whether etc: I don’t quite understand where you want me to put it.
    1. a.
      to know what something spoken or written in a particular language means
      I’m sorry, I don’t understand French.
  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] to know how or why something happens, or what effect or influence something has
    Do they fully understand the implications of their decision?
    understand how/why/what etc: We are only beginning to understand how the brain functions.
    understand (that): Please try to understand that we want the best for you.
  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to know how someone feels or why someone does something, as a result of experience or by imagining what it must be like to be them
    He says his wife doesn’t understand him.
    I understand your concern, but the operation is completely safe.
    I can understand your reluctance to talk about what happened.
    understand how/why/what: Does she understand why he doesn’t want to see her?
    understand someone/someone’s doing something: I can understand him not inviting Joan (=understand why he does not invite her).
  4. 4
    [transitive] formal to believe that something is true because you have heard or read it somewhere
    understand (that): We understand that a major announcement is to be made tomorrow.
    be understood to do something: Mr Lang is understood to favour more traditional teaching methods.
    it is understood that: It is understood that £2.5 million has been set aside to develop the scheme.
  5. 5
    [transitive] [usually passive] to recognize that a word or phrase is missing in a sentence and that you have to imagine that it is there
    The object of the verb is understood with words such as ‘to smoke’ and ‘to read’.




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