understand - definition and synonyms

verb [never progressive] 

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present tense
present participleunderstanding
past tenseunderstood
past participleunderstood
  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’.