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Implicit vs. Explicit – Pick the Correct Word

Implicit vs. Explicit – Pick the Correct Word

If someone is being clear and to the point, is he or she being implicit or explicit? While both are legitimate words, and both describe how something can be communicated, they are not interchangeable.

Only one of the words could properly answer the above question. Continue reading to find out which it is.

Differences in Usage: Implicit vs. Explicit

This article compares the adjectives implicit and explicit. I will provide definitions and example sentences to demonstrate the usages of both words. Then I’ll show you a new way of looking at implicit and explicit to help you remember their different meanings.

What Does Implicit Mean?

Meaning of Implicit: Implicitdescribes a message that is impliedor suggested, rather than clearly stated or revealed.

Implicit often describes something that is communicated through tone, behavior, and/or tacit understanding.

  • Although she didn’t speak a word, the look she gave him was full of implicit meaning.
  • We didn’t make a pact, but the two of us had an implicit agreement never to speak of that horrible day.
  • I didn’t think I had to tell you; I thought it was implicit.

Implicit – unreserved. Implicit also means that something is done without a doubt. In this sense, if something is implicit, it is absolute and unquestioning.

  • I was raised Jewish, and I still have implicit faith in God.
  • My dog is so loving—she has implicit trust in me.
  • My dog trusts me

Implicitfunctions as an adjective in the first two sentences, describing the nouns “faith” and “trust.”

By adding the suffix –ly, implicit becomes the adverb implicitly, which we can see in the last example sentence. In the final example, implicitly functions as an adverb and modifies the verb “trusts.” Most English adverbs can be recognized by their –ly suffix.

What Does Explicit Mean?

 Meaning of Explicit: Explicit describes a detailed statement that is completely clear and leaves no doubt. It can describe a message, a work of art, or instructions.

  • The public execution sent an explicit message to the rebels.
  • The painting was rendered in explicit detail.
  • I explicitly told you not to do that!

In the last example, I demonstrate how explicit can become an adverb in the same way as implicit—by adding the –ly suffix. Here, it describes the verb “told.”

Explicit – adult. Explicit is commonly used as a label to indicate that certain content features uncensored profanity, violence, and/or sexual acts. This makes sense because explicit means “detailed,” so something containing expletives or nudity is showing these things in detail, rather than bleeping or blurring them out.

  • Sorry, you have to be 18 to buy the explicit CDs.
  • Game of Thrones is a good TV show, but it’s not for children; it’s pretty explicit.
  • Yuck! I did not need to hear all the explicit details of that story.

Explicit vs. Implicit: How to Remember the Difference

Explicit and implicit both resemble other words that relate to their respective meanings, which makes it easy to remember the difference.

  • Explicit starts with “ex” like explainand If someone is being explicit, then they are explaining exactly what they mean.
  • Explicit also looks like expletive,which is related to its alternate meaning.
  • Implicit looks like implied. When a message is implicit it is implied, not clearly stated.

Recap: When to Use Implicit and Explicit

While it may not seem to make a difference whether you use explicit or implicit, these words actually mean opposite things about the way in which something is communicated.

In order to keep your writing clear and meaningful, it’s important to remember the difference between each word.

  • Implicit means that something is understood without being directly stated.
  • Explicit means that something is expressed with detailed clarity.


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