What's the difference between something being explaining and being explanatory?

I've looked in the dictionary and the translations to my language are the same. Yet both forms can be seen in common text. Are they synonyms?

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, tchrist, user19148, MetaEd, coleopterist Sep 30 '12 at 4:45

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  • Translations? Do you mean "definitions"? – Ataraxia Sep 24 '12 at 21:08
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    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

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.

  • 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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