Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What's the difference between explaining and explanatory?

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

share|improve this 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
add comment

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.

1 Answer

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.

share|improve this answer
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
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.