English

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

      

    understand

     verb
    verb
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstænd//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstænd//
     
    (not used in the progressive tenses)Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they understand
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstænd//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstænd//
     
    he / she / it understands
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstændz//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstændz//
     
    past simple understood
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstʊd//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstʊd//
     
    past participle understood
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstʊd//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstʊd//
     
    he / she / it understanding
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈstændɪŋ//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈstændɪŋ//
     
     
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    meaning
  1. 1  [transitive, intransitive] to know or realize the meaning of words, a language, what somebody 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.
  2. how something works/happens
  3. 2  [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. Synonymsunderstandsee 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 somebody 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 still don’t understand much about the disease.see to understand what is happening, what somebody is saying, how something works or how important something is:‘It opens like this.’ ‘Oh, I see.’ Oh yes, I see what you mean.get (informal) to understand a joke, what somebody 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. 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, idea or reason:The concept of infinity is almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend.Patterns to understand/​see/​get/​follow/​grasp/​comprehend what/​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 something
  4. know somebody
  5. 3  [transitive, intransitive] to know somebody’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 quite understand that you need some time alone. If you want to leave early, I'm sure he'll understand. understand somebody doing something I quite understand you needing some time alone.
  6. think/believe
  7. 4[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 Prime Minister is understood to have been extremely angry about the report. it is understood that… It is understood that the band are working on their next album.
  8. be agreed
  9. 5[transitive] it is understood that… to agree something with somebody without it needing to be said I thought it was understood that my expenses would be paid.
  10. missing word
  11. 6[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.
  12. 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?Word Familyunderstand verb (misunderstand)understandable adjectivemisunderstood adjectiveunderstanding adjective noun (misunderstanding) Word Origin Old English understandan (see under-, stand).Extra examples Her behaviour wounded him in a way he did not really understand. I can’t understand what all the fuss is about. I could barely understand a word of his story. I don’t claim to understand it. I finally understood what she meant. I fully understand the reason for your decision. If I’ve understood you correctly… It is difficult to understand why he reacted in that way. Only specialists can hope to understand them. She intuitively understood his need to be alone. She realized that she had never properly understood him. She soon learnt to understand English. The effects of these chemicals on the body are still poorly understood. The girl understands immediately and promises to be more careful. The reasons for this decision are not easily understood. These beliefs are best understood as a form of escapism. These categories help us to better understand our readers. They won’t necessarily understand the pros and cons of the matter. We came to understand why certain things happened in certain ways. We understand little about this disease. What is generally understood by ‘democracy’? a complex topic which I only partially understand a woman struggling to understand an incomprehensible situation Do you understand French? Doctors still don’t understand much about the disease. He couldn’t understand what she was saying. He doesn’t understand women at all. I don’t understand the instructions. I don’t want you doing that again. Do you understand? I just can’t understand him taking the money. If you want to leave early, I’m sure he’ll understand. It’s understood that the band are already working on their next album. She said she didn’t understand the form she was signing. She understood that this was her last chance. The disease is still not fully understood. The prime minister is understood to have been extremely angry about the report. We understand each other, even if we don’t always agree.Idioms
    give somebody to believe/understand (that)…
     
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    [often passive] (formal) to make somebody 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 American Dictionary entry: understand