Difference Between Explain and Describe

Explain vs Describe
 

Difference between explain and describe is a topic worth looking into as explain and describe carry similar meaning. In using English language we often see these two words used as synonyms, but we should always remember that there is a difference between explain and describe. Now, if we look at these two words, both describe and explain are verbs. Explain has its origins in Late Middle English while describe has its origins in Late Middle English too. Describable and describer are derivatives of the word describe. In the same manner, explainable and explainer are derivatives of the word explain.

What does Explain mean?

Explain is a verb that cannot be used with two objects. It is wrong to say ‘he explains him something.’ On the other hand, it is the correct usage when you say ‘he explains something to him.’ Thus, it is understood that explain is a kind of verb that cannot be used with two objects. On the other hand, it is also a verb that is often followed by the preposition ‘to’ immediately after an object. This is an important observation when it comes to the usage of the verb explain. Bearing these facts in mind, observe the two sentences given below.

I explained my problem to my teacher.

I explained my teacher my problem.

The first sentence is the correct one when it comes to the usage of the verb explain. On the other hand, the second sentence is a wrong one when it comes to the usage of the verb explain.

The word explain is all about going into details. Moreover, the noun form of the verb explain is explanation. Then, it is interesting to note that the noun form of describe is followed often by the preposition ‘of’ in the formation of the expression, namely, ‘explanation of’.

What does Describe mean?

On the other hand, the verb describe suggests the detailed elucidation of the points or salient features of an event or an episode and the like. Unlike the word explain that is all about going into details, the word describe is all about the elucidation of features. Furthermore, the noun form of the verb describe is description. It is also interesting to note that the noun form of describe is followed often by the preposition ‘of’ in the formation of the expression, namely, ‘description of’. Here are some examples for the use of the word describe.

I described my experience in France in a newspaper article.

His accent was described as a British one.

Difference Between Explain and Describe

What is the difference between Explain and Describe?

• Explain is a verb that cannot be used with two objects.

• On the other hand, explain is also a verb that is often followed by the preposition ‘to’ immediately after an object.

• The word explain is all about going into details. On the other hand, the verb describe suggests the detailed elucidation of the points or salient features of an event or an episode and the like. This is the main difference between the two words, namely, explain and describe.

• The noun form of the two words also differ in the sense that the noun form of the verb explain is explanation whereas the noun form of the verb describe is description.

• It is interesting to note that the noun forms of both the verbs are often followed by the preposition ‘of’ in the formation of expressions, namely, ‘description of’ and ‘explanation of’.

Images Courtesy:

  1. Describe example by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter (CC BY 2.0)