Definition of explain verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪn//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they explain
    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪn//
    he / she / it explains
    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪnz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪnz//
    past simple explained
    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪnd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪnd//
    past participle explained
    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪnd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪnd//
    -ing form explaining
    BrE BrE//ɪkˈspleɪnɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪkˈspleɪnɪŋ//
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  1. 1  [transitive, intransitive] to tell somebody about something in a way that makes it easy to understand explain (something) (to somebody) First, I'll explain the rules of the game. It was difficult to explain the problem to beginners. ‘Let me explain!’ he added helpfully. explain that… I explained that an ambulance would be coming soon. explain who, how, etc… He explained who each person in the photo was. Can you explain how the email system works? explain to somebody who, how, etc… She explained to them what to do in an emergency. + speech ‘It works like this,’ she explained. it is explained that… It was explained that attendance was compulsory. Express YourselfAsking for clarificationWhen you are given some information or asked to do something, you may need to check that you have understood correctly. Here are some ways of asking people to clarify what they said: I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand. Would you mind explaining that again? I’m not sure that I’ve understood correctly. Sorry, I don't quite follow (you). Can I just check that I’ve got this right? I’m not quite/​exactly clear about/​really sure what I’m supposed to do. Sorry, could you repeat that? I didn’t hear what you said. Sorry, would you mind repeating what you just said? If I understand you correctly, you want me to phone the customer and apologise? Do you mean (to say) that the deal's off? What exactly are you saying? So you're saying that the meeting's cancelled? Sorry, did you mean that I should wait here or come back later? Can you just confirm your date of birth for me, please?
  2. 2  [intransitive, transitive] to give a reason, or be a reason, for something She tried to explain but he wouldn't listen. explain that… Alex explained that his car had broken down. explain why, how, etc… Well, that doesn't explain why you didn't phone. explain something (to somebody) scientific findings that help explain the origins of the universe The government now has to explain its decision to the public. (informal) Oh well then, that explains it (= I understand now why something happened).
  3. You cannot say ‘explain me, him, her, etc.’Can you explain the situation to me?Can you explain me the situation?I'll explain to you why I like it.I’ll explain you why I like it.
    Word Originlate Middle English: from Latin explanare, based on planus ‘plain’.Word Familyexplain verbexplanation nounexplanatory adjectiveexplicable adjective (inexplicable)Extra examples I explained the issues in great detail. I have a letter here which explains everything. I know I’m late, but I can explain why. It is a book which seeks to explain the birth of Greek tragedy. It’s difficult to explain exactly how the system works. Let me explain what I mean. Many theories purport to explain growth in terms of a single cause. She explained the plan to me very carefully. She saw his quick frown and hastened to explain. She tried to explain about her fears and anxieties. The doctor explained patiently what the treatment would be. The general principles behind the method used are explained clearly and concisely. The reasons for the accident have not been fully explained. This goes some way towards explaining the hostility between the two groups. This partly explains why he was so late. This phenomenon can be easily explained. ‘It was like this,’ she explained. ‘Let me explain,’ he continued. Ed explained that his car had broken down. First, let me explain the rules of the game. He explained awkwardly that he had not slept at his own home that night. I can explain everything! I was just trying to help her with her homework! I really don’t see why I should have to explain myself to you. I tried to explain the problem to the technician. I’ll explain the system in greater detail next time. Oh well then, that explains it. She explained to them what to do in the event of an emergency. She tried to explain but he wouldn’t listen. The official explained patiently that our documents were not valid. The rules need to be clearly explained to all newcomers. There’s no need to explain. We understand. Well, that doesn’t explain why you didn’t call me.Idioms
    1. 1  to give somebody reasons for your behaviour, especially when they are angry or upset because of it I really don't see why I should have to explain myself to you.
    2. 2  to say what you mean in a clear way Could you explain yourself a little more—I didn't understand.
    Phrasal Verbsexplain somethingaway
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: explain

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