Meaning of EXPLAIN in English


ex ‧ plain S1 W1 /ɪkˈspleɪn/ BrE AmE verb [intransitive and transitive]

[ Word Family: adjective : ↑ unexplained , ↑ explanatory , ↑ explicable ≠ ↑ inexplicable ; noun : explaining, ↑ explanation ; verb : ↑ explain ; adverb : ↑ inexplicably ]

[ Date: 1500-1600 ; Language: Latin ; Origin: explanare 'to make level, unfold' , from planus 'level, flat' ]

1 . to tell someone about something in a way that is clear or easy to understand:

He carefully explained the procedure.

explain (to somebody) why/how/what etc

The librarian will explain how to use the catalogue system.

Let me explain what I mean.

explain that

He explained that it had been a difficult film to make.

explain something to somebody

I explained the situation to my bank manager.

► You explain something to someone : He explained the system to me (NOT explained me the system).

2 . to give a reason for something or to be a reason for something:

Wait! I can explain everything.

How can you explain that sort of behaviour?

explain that

She explained that she had been ill.

explain why/how/what etc

I’ll explain why I don’t believe your story.

That still doesn’t explain how he was able to hide the body.

3 . explain yourself

a) to tell someone who is angry or upset with you the reasons why you did something:

I’m going to give you five seconds to explain yourself.

b) to say clearly what you mean:

Sorry, I’m not explaining myself very well.

• • •


▪ explain to give someone the information they need to understand something:

She explained how to use the software.


Doctors usually explain the risks of the treatment to patients.

▪ tell to explain something. People often use tell instead of explain in everyday conversation:

He told me how to get to his house.


The book tells you how to improve your health through diet.

▪ show to explain to someone how to do something by doing it while they watch you:

Ellen showed me how to work the coffee maker.

▪ demonstrate /ˈdemənstreɪt/ to explain to someone how to do something by doing it while they watch you, especially when it is part of your job:

The cabin crew demonstrated the safety procedures to the passengers.


A qualified instructor will demonstrate how to use the equipment properly.

▪ go through something to explain something carefully, especially one step at a time:

Mrs. Riddell went through the homework assignment.

▪ set out something to explain a series of ideas, reasons or opinions in an organized way in writing or in a speech:

In his speech, he intended to set out the party’s policies on education.

explain something ↔ away phrasal verb

to make something seem less important or bad by giving reasons for it:

The difference in the treatment they receive is hard to explain away.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.