Explain vs. Describe

Difference Between Explain and Describe

Describe and explain two verbs in the English language, which are often confused when it comes to their use. In fact there is a difference in the way the two terms are used.

Explain is a verb that cannot be applied to two objects. It is incorrect to say that ‘she explains him something’. However, it would be correct to say that ‘she explains something to him’. Explain is also a verb that is usually followed by the preposition, ‘to’ after the object. This is the correct usage of the verb ‘explain’.

Observe the same two sentences:

1. I explained my problem to my teacher.

2. I explained my teacher my problem.

The first sentence is grammatically correct when it comes to the use of the verb ‘explain’. The second sentence is grammatically incorrect when it comes to the use of the verb ‘explain’.

The word ‘describe’ suggests a detailed explanation of the features of an object, situation or person. When you explain something, you are supposed to go into details. Describe is the explanation of characteristics. This is the main difference between the two words, explain and describe.

The form of the two words also indicates their meaning. The noun for the verb explain, is explanation, while, the noun form of describe is description. It is important to note that the nouns of both verbs are often followed by the preposition ‘of’. Thus, we commonly use the expressions ‘explanation of’ and ‘description of’.


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