Explicit or Implicit?

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Explicit or Implicit?

What is the difference between "explicit" and "implicit"?
  • "Explicit" means direct or clearly expressed. For example:
    • His demand was explicit. He wants a pay rise.
  • "Implicit" means implied or expressed indirectly. For example:
    • His demand was implicit. He hinted at a pay rise.
explicit or implicit?

More about "Explicit" and "Implicit"

Occasionally, there is confusion over the adjectives "explicit" and "implicit." They sound similar, but their meanings are quite different.

Explicit

The adjective "explicit" means "precisely and clearly expressed."

Example sentence with "explicit":
  • The answer is no. My statement was explicit.
  • The law was explicit in whose tax rates were to be raised.
  • Marathon runners set explicit goals.
The word "explicit" can usually be replaced with "clear."

The Meaning of "Explicit Sexual Content"

When used in terms like "explicit sexual content" or "explicit violent material," "explicit" means clearly visible (i.e. not suggested). For example:
  • The new advertisement contains explicit sexual material.
  • (This means that the advertisement contains actual sex scenes.)
By contrast, terms like "implicit sexual content" or "implicit violent material" mean that the sex or violence is implied, not actually shown.

Implicit

The adjective "implicit" means implied or suggested.

Example sentence with "implicit":
  • There is always an implicit threat of violence.
  • The attention on young middle class protestors was far less direct but often implicit.
  • A piece of advice always contains an implicit threat, just as a threat always contains an implicit piece of advice. (Writer Jose Bergamin)
The word "implicit" can usually be replaced with "implied."
Remembering "Implicit"


Let the i in "implicit" remind you of "indirect" or "implied."

"Explicitly" and "Implicitly"

The adverbs "explicitly" and "implicitly" are common. They are typically used with verbs of attribution like "to say," "to state," and "to ask." For example:
  • John explicitly asked for a pay rise.
  • (This means John literally asked for a pay rise.)
  • John implicitly asked for a pay rise.
  • (This means John hinted at getting a pay rise, i.e., indirectly asked for one.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? List of easily confused words