American English

Definition of understand verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they understand
    he / she / it understands
    past simple understood
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  1. 1(not used in the progressive tenses)
  2. meaning
  3. 2[transitive, intransitive] to know or realize the meaning of words, a language, what someone says, etc. understand (something) Can you understand French? Do you understand the instructions? She didn't understand the form she was signing. I'm not sure that I understand. Go over it again. I don't want you doing that again. Do you understand? understand what… I don't understand what he's saying.
  4. how something works/happens
  5. 3[transitive, intransitive] to know or realize how or why something happens, how it works, or why it is important understand (something) Doctors still don't understand much about the disease. No one is answering the phone — I can't understand it. understand why, what, etc… I could never understand why she was fired. They're too young to understand what is happening. understand somebody/something doing something I just can't understand him taking the money. (formal) I just can't understand his taking the money. understand that… He was the first to understand that we live in a knowledge economy.
  6. know someone
  7. 4[transitive, intransitive] to know someone's character, how they feel, and why they behave in the way they do understand somebody Nobody understands me. He doesn't understand women at all. We understand each other, even if we don't always agree. understand what, how, etc… They understand what I have been through. I understand how hard things have been for you. understand (that…) I understand that you need some time alone. If you want to leave early, I'm sure he'll understand. understand somebody doing something I understand you needing some time alone.
  8. think/believe
  9. 5[transitive] (formal) to think or believe that something is true because you have been told that it is understand (that)… I understand (that) you wish to see the manager. Am I to understand that you refuse? understand somebody/something to be/have something The senator is understood to have been extremely angry about the report. it is understood that… It is understood that the band is working on their next album.
  10. be agreed
  11. 6[transitive] it is understood that… to agree something with someone without it needing to be said I thought it was understood that my expenses would be paid.
  12. missing word
  13. 7[transitive, usually passive] understand something to realize that a word in a phrase or sentence is not expressed and to supply it in your mind In the sentence “I can't drive,” the object “a car” is understood.
  14. Thesaurusunderstandsee get follow grasp comprehendThese words all mean to know or realize something, for example why something happens, how something works, or what something means.understand to know or realize the meaning of words, a language, what someone says, etc.; to know or realize how or why something happens, how it works, or why it is important:I don't understand the instructions. Doctors are just beginning to understand the causes of the disease.see to understand what is happening, what someone is saying, how something works, or how important something is:Ah ha—I see how it works now. Oh yes, I see what you mean.get (informal) to understand a joke, what someone is trying to tell you, or a situation that they are trying to describe:She didn't get the joke. I don't get you.follow to understand an explanation, a story, or the meaning of something:Sorry—I don't quite follow what you're saying. The plot is almost impossible to follow.grasp to come to understand a fact, an idea, or how to do something:They failed to grasp the importance of his words.understand or grasp?You can use understand or grasp for the action of realizing the meaning or importance of something for the first time:It's a difficult concept for children to understand/grasp.Only understand can be used to talk about languages, words, or writing:I don't grasp French/the instructions.comprehend (often used in negative statements) (formal) to understand a fact, an idea, or a reason:The concept of infinity is almost impossible for us to comprehend.Patterns to understand/see/get/follow/grasp/comprehend what… to understand/see/get/grasp/comprehend why/how… to understand/see/grasp/comprehend that… to understand/see/get/grasp the point/idea (of something) to be easy/difficult/hard to understand/see/follow/grasp/comprehend to fully understand/see/grasp/comprehend somethingWord Familyunderstand verb (misunderstand)understandable adjectivemisunderstood adjectiveunderstanding adjective noun (misunderstanding)understand verb (misunderstand)understandable adjectivemisunderstood adjectiveunderstanding adjective noun (misunderstanding)Idioms
    give somebody to believe/understand (that)… [often passive] (formal)
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    to make someone believe/understand something I was given to understand that she had resigned.
    make yourself understood
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    to make your meaning clear, especially in another language He doesn't speak much Japanese, but he can make himself understood.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: understand