Explicit or Implicit?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Explicit" and "Implicit"?

"Explicit" and "implicit" are easy to confuse because they are similar-looking words with close meanings.
  • "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 there is a distinction with their meanings.


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.


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.)

Ready for the Test?

Help Us Improve Grammar Monster

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?

Find Us Quicker!

  • When using a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing), you will find Grammar Monster quicker if you add #gm to your search term.
Next lesson >

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? List of easily confused words

Page URL