This post is make of a few related questions.

Q1. Which structure is more preferred?

This method is hard to understand for students.
This method is hard to be understood by students.

Q2. Which structure is more preferred?

This method is hard to comprehend for students.
This method is hard to be comprehend by students.

Q3. In very formal writing is comprehend preferred over understand?

Q4. Is comprehend = understand always (as far as it is related to understanding a method)?


I would use:

This method is challenging/difficult for students to understand/comprehend

Did you see the following question already answered which might aid with your understanding? :-)

Difference between "understand" and "comprehend"

  • Will it also aid with his comprehension? :) – Barmar Apr 9 '15 at 20:58

None of them. I would use:

This method is hard for students to understand/comprehend.


This method is not easily understood by students.

I wouldn't use comprehend in this second version. Since it uses the past tense, it would have to be comprehended, and I find that a cumbersome word for some reason.

  • I would tend to agree that your examples flow better. But, though cumbersome, there is nothing grammatically incorrect with either of the OP's. Understand and comprehend are very close synonyms, and one has little rank over the other. It is a classic instance of there being two words, one of Old English/Germanic origin - understonden and another meaning almost the same thing of Norman French origin - comprendre – WS2 Apr 9 '15 at 21:15
  • The question was which is more preferred. So while the sentences in the question may be grammatical, I don't think they're the preferred way to write it. As for comprehend versus understand, OSFox linked to another question that addresses that more completely. – Barmar Apr 9 '15 at 21:18

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