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?

  • Translations? Do you mean "definitions"? Sep 24, 2012 at 21:08
  • 1
    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, 2012 at 22:12

1 Answer 1


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? Sep 25, 2012 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, 2012 at 12:29

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