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    #1

    Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    I remember reading that 'explain' as a verb cannot be used with 'about'. Is this the same case as 'mention about' which I wrote about in an earlier post?

    I checked the British National Corpus and I found 'explain' and 'explain about' being used. I am really confused.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by Tan Elaine; 04-Jul-2012 at 18:39. Reason: amend 'verb' to 'about'

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Please explain to me how to change the tyre on my car.
    Can you explain astro-physics to me in 10 minutes?
    I explained to him that he must arrive one hour before the appointment.

    You will hear "explain about" a lot but it's not necessary and the preposition is redundant.

    He is explaining about the new system for checking out library books.
    He is explaining the new system for checking out library books.
    He is explaining that there is a new system for checking out library books.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    I am constantly surprised that members are confused about the fact that many native speakers write 'incorrect' English at times. I would hazard a guess that over 90% of English sentences spoken in everyday conversation (if you are lucky enough to be able to identify 'sentences' in everyday conversation) contain things that a purist would identify as a 'mistake'. I should not be surprised if over 80% of English sentences written every day contained 'mistakes'.

    The language that is taught to learners is an artificial ideal. Back in the 'good old days' when 'proper' English was still taught, I spent some thirteen years at school being taught what was expected in that ideal. I just about managed to satisfy my teachers and examiners, but many of my colleagues (who were supposedly in the top 20-25% of the population academically) did not manage that.

    It makes sense for a non-native speaker to use the ideal as a model, but don't be surprised if you find many native speakers breaking the 'rules' in every utterance they make.

    It is true that formal grammar as such has not been taught in many English schools for half a century or so, but that has made only a marginal difference overall, in my opinion. In my adult literacy work back in the 1980s I met many people who were functionally illiterate - and they were at school at the same time as my parents, who used to complain, "In our day everybody left school able to write good English".

    I know little of importance about other languages except French and German. Despite the fact that France and Germany have bodies which can decree what is acceptable language in public examinations, I have met in my life many native speakers of French and German who regularly make 'mistakes' in both speech and writing. 'Good' French and German, like 'good' English, are ideals that only a minority of native speakers produce consistently. I suspect that the same is true of most languages.
    Last edited by 5jj; 04-Jul-2012 at 22:00. Reason: typo

  3. Chicken Sandwich's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I know little of importance about no other languages except French and German. Despite the fact that France and Germany have bodies which can decree what is acceptable language in public examinations, I have met in my life many native speakers of French and German who regularly make 'mistakes' in both speech and writing. 'Good' French and German, like 'good' English, are ideals that only a minority of native speakers produce consistently. I suspect that the same is true of most languages.
    It's the same thing with Dutch. Sure, there is some kind of "authority" that dictates what "good" Dutch is, but in reality, even educated people such as myself don't really care. There are some mistakes, that only uneducated people make, and it wouldn't be wise to make those mistakes in a university setting and/or formal setting (if you want to make a good impression and so on). However, there are a lot of "mistakes" that educated people make on a regular basis, and since everyone makes such mistates from to time, it would be unrealistic to call them "mistakes" just because some authority says they are.
    It's the same thing as with "as if" vs. "like". I didn't know that there was this rule that said which one you should use, until I read that article by Grammar Girl. I didn't know that "it looks like it's going to rain" was considered incorrect by some "authorities".
    Last edited by Chicken Sandwich; 04-Jul-2012 at 19:04.

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    #5

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Many thanks, 5jj, for your detailed explanation.

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    #6

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Thanks, Chicken Sandwich.

    it looks like it's going to rain.
    (If I am not mistaken, this version is AmE.)

    It looks as if it's going to rain is BrE.

    If I remember correctly, this is what I read in a grammar book. However, I wonder whether native speakers make this distinction.

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    #7

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tan Elaine View Post
    it looks like it's going to rain. (If I am not mistaken, this version is AmE.)

    It looks as if it's going to rain is BrE.

    If I remember correctly, this is what I read in a grammar book. However, I wonder whether native speaker make this distinction.

    Thanks.
    That is not the "rule" as far as I know. If you want to read about this issue, check out this thread https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/a...fashioned.html

    And here's the article by Grammar Girl that I was referring to earlier http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com...versus-as.aspx

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tan Elaine View Post
    Many thanks, 5jj, for your detailed explanation.


    I have now corrected it, but in my original response I wrote, "I know little of importance about no other languages except French and German". When I came back four hours later and read that, I could not believe (that) I had written that, but I had. There were no comments, so I assume (that) nobody had spotted the glaring 'mistake'. When most of us wish to communicate our ideas, we do not consciously think about the 'rules'. Except for a few pedants/purists, most of us do not notice the 'mistakes' in what we hear/read. We hear/read the message, not the words

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    #9

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post


    I have now corrected it, but in my original response I wrote, "I know little of importance about no other languages except French and German". When I came back four hours later and read that, I could not believe (that) I had written that, but I had. There were no comments, so I assume (that) nobody had spotted the glaring 'mistake'. When most of us wish to communicate our ideas, we do not consciously think about the 'rules'. Except for a few pedants/purists, most of us do not notice the 'mistakes' in what we hear/read. We hear/read the message, not the words
    I actually noticed that there was something wrong with the sentence. I definitely am a pedant, but I don't think this was the reason in this case. The reason was that I was unable to understand it. I wanted to come back to it later and forgot about it. Now I understand what you meant.

    I think it's important to remember that mistakes can and sometimes do distort the message.

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    #10

    Re: Can the verb 'explain' be used with 'about'?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    I actually noticed that there was something wrong with the sentence. I definitely am a pedant, but I don't think this was the reason in this case. The reason was that I was unable to understand it. I wanted to come back to it later and forgot about it. Now I understand what you meant.
    You are different from most members, BC. (I wrote those words seriously, not sarcastically, condemnatorily or sycophantically.) Because of your interest in the way we use language, you noticed immediately the infelicity. Most people, even native speakers, would not have noticed it, which was one of the reasons I submitted post #8.

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