I wonder how the following verbs differ the meaning of my self-made sentence:

  1. Let me explain to you how it happened.
  2. Let me describe to you how it happened.

To me, both of the sentences above mean the same thing; although, I know that "describe" mostly calls for "sensory experiences" and "explain" calls for "analysis", but still I don't know how can I interpret them as different concepts for myself. Please let me know how would you understand them?


Explain is about causes and motives. Describe is just about events.

Imagine a policeman finding out what happened.

Policeman: Please describe what happened.
Witness: I saw the man slap the woman on the back.

Policeman to man: Please explain what happened.
Man: I was trying to kill a mosquito.

  • Well @jonathanjo, could you possibly provide me with some more explanations? – A-friend May 16 at 15:20
  • What does the man mean by "Man: I was trying to kill a mosquito."? :-? – A-friend May 16 at 15:21
  • 1
    A mosquito lands on the woman's back. The witness describes seeing the man slap the woman on the back. The man explains he was trying to kill the insect, not hit the woman. – jonathanjo May 16 at 15:32
  • 2
    Basically, "explain" is "why", and "describe" is "what". – Acccumulation May 16 at 19:29

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