explain - definition and synonyms


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present tense
present participleexplaining
past tenseexplained
past participleexplained
  1. 1
    [transitive] to tell someone something in a way that helps them understand it better

    ‘My full name is Juliet Avery,’ Juliet explained patiently.

    explain something to someone:

    The doctor explained the risks to me before the operation.

    explain how/when/what etc:

    I will try to explain how a car engine works.

    explain (that):

    He explained that he would be moving to another city.

    1. a.
      used about a book or picture

      This manual explains how to use your computer.

      a leaflet that explains who can claim benefit

  2. 2
    [transitive] to give a reason for something that happens, especially when this is not easy to understand

    Science cannot explain everything.

    It’s difficult to explain the popularity of this new toy.

    The phenomenon can be explained in various ways.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to be the reason for something
      explain why/what etc:

      ‘Tom is in hospital.’ ‘That explains why he wasn’t in school today.’

    2. b.
      [intransitive/transitive] used when you want someone to understand and forgive you

      I can explain everything.

      Wait! Let me explain!

phrasal verbs