What is the difference between the verb resolve and solve?

We have problems to solve.
We have problems to resolve.

When do you use one and not the other?

  • 4
    This question has already been answered in English Language & Usage.
    – Mick
    Oct 1, 2016 at 4:07
  • 2
    How does your dictionary define these two verbs? Can you use the edit link to add this to your question? That will make the question better, and it will help us to provide a better answer! Oct 1, 2016 at 4:45
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    @MickSharpe The subtle difference is easy to grasp for a native speaker, but can be mystifying to a NNS, especially since some dictionaries provide one definition of resolve as identical to that for solve! The ELU answer may be just as mystifying to them. I think this question has real value and warrants a thoughtful answer (which I am too wiped out to write.) Oct 1, 2016 at 4:49

1 Answer 1


The verb to solve is generally used to mean find a solution – for example an answer or explanation. We solve a problem, something with a logical or complete answer. The verb to resolve has a number of meanings, one of which is to deal with conclusively – that is, to settle something, effectively to finish it in an acceptable way. This meaning of resolve is close to the meaning of solve, but with the difference that solve is used to find the correct answer to a problem; resolve is used more generally to conclude a problem. The conclusion reached with resolving something may be one of many choices, and it may not please everyone, but it concludes the problem, finishing it. The conclusion reached with solving a problem, however, suggests the correct and definite answer has been found.

Solve concerns logical problems:

Solve a maths problem

Solve a riddle

Resolve typically concerns emotional problems:

Resolve a dispute

Resolve a conflict

Source: What's the difference between 'solve' and 'resolve'? - English Lessons in Brighton


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