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Do you feel any difference between the two? or do you distinguish any difference using them?

sympathetic

understanding

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Sympathetic to/for X means you have an emotional interest in X, or consider X a part of you, and thus you feel what X is feeling. Because of this, you will help X.

Understanding X just means (among other things) that you've seen/experienced something and know what it means or how it feels. It doesn't automatically imply an emotional or other connection between you and X, though it can strongly imply it.

So you can understand something, but not do anything about it, because you aren't sympathetic to it.

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  • The word "sympathy" comes from the Greek sun pathos meaning with feeling. The word "understand" comes from the Old English understandan, where under meant among or between (see Latin inter- ) rather than the current meaning of beneath. So, sympathy has to do with emotion, and understanding with intellect, as ultrasawblade explains.
    – BobRodes
    May 26, 2015 at 1:28

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