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What's the difference between explaining and explanatory?

I've looked in the dictionary and the translations are the same. Are they synonyms?

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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, tchrist, Carlo_R., MετάEd, coleopterist Sep 30 '12 at 4:45

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Translations? Do you mean "definitions"? – Ataraxia Sep 24 '12 at 21:08
As Souta says, they have almost the same meaning, but are grammatically completely different, and I can't think of a context in which they are interchangeable. – Colin Fine Sep 24 '12 at 22:12
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm going to explain my answer, even though I find the dictionary to be explanatory.

You often explain something. However, when you go to choose 'best answer', you're going to find their answer explanatory.

explain (dictionary):

verb: make (an idea or situation) clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts

explanatory (dictionary):

adjective: serving to explain something

So, explain is something you do, whereas explanatory describes what is.

Further example:

I am going to explain this answer one last time.

I write this answer explaining what the difference is.

After writing this, I find this to be an explanatory answer.

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Ok, so a description would be rather explanatory than explaining, right? – Ondra Žižka Sep 25 '12 at 6:55
@OndraŽižka As long as your describing the description as explanatory, yes. Explaining is a verb. Explanatory is an adjective, meant to describe something. – Souta Sep 25 '12 at 12:29

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