Can you think of any example sentences in which "understandable" and "comprehensible" are not interchangeable? Please give an explanation why they are not interchangeable in them (semantic, stylistic or other differences).

Various answers are highly appreciated.

In the comment section I have been asked: "why OP thinks they are different?"

There are several reasons for that:

  1. The first one is rather banal: because understandable and comprehensible are two different words.
  2. Because the dictionary entries of them (understandable, comprehensible) sound very similar but not equal.
  3. Because the two dictionary entries neither refer to each other nor name the one word as synonym of the other one.
  4. Because the first word has a Germanic base whereas the second one a Latin/Roman one - and it is well known that words with different bases often have at least stylistic differences.

2 Answers 2


Understandable = behaviour or reactions which seem normal and reasonable, as in

His unwillingness to go through all that again is quite understandable. It is understandable that parents are angry, and looking for someone to blame.

Replace it with comprehensible and the simple sentences take on an odd, stilted air.

On the other hand, comprehensible rather implies intelligibility than normality (the more so, since the word comprehensible is heavily used in scientific papers):

The epistemological project feels like the pursuit of a perfectly comprehensible intellectual goal. The explanation of the science at work was clear, concise and comprehensible.

Replace it with understandable and the latter begins to seem a bit out of discourse.


Understand can mean "to assume" where comprehend never works like that.

I understood him to be coming to the party tonight.

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