Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

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

explain

verb
     
ex‧plain S1 W1 [intransitive and transitive]
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 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.

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