a teacher

Explain / Explain To

Describe / Describe To

A) Which of the following sentences are correct?

  1. Can you explain this sentence?
  2. Can you explain me this sentence?
  3. Can you explain to me this sentence?
  4. Can you explain this sentence to me?

Sentences 1, 3, and 4 are correct. Sentence 2 is incorrect.


B) Which of the following sentences are correct?

  1. Please describe the picture.
  2. Please describe us the picture.
  3. Please describe to us the picture.
  4. Please describe the picture to us.

Sentences 1, 3, and 4 are correct. Sentence 2 is incorrect.


The Simple Reason Why:

When you explain or describe something to someone, you must follow one of these structures:

explain/describe + to + (who) + (what)


Examples:

  • They explained to us the procedure.
  • We explained to them our difficult situation.
  • Lisa explained to Martha where to park.
  • Bob described to you his theory.
  • I described to my friends my life in the big city.

OR

explain/describe + (what) + to + (who)

Examples:

  • They explained the procedure to us.
  • We explained our difficult situation to them.
  • Lisa explained where to park to Martha.
  • Bob described his theory to you.
  • I described my life in the big city to my friends.

A Practical Trick to Remember

1) To explain something means to give more understanding about it. To explain to something/someone means to give more understanding to them.

For example, “I explained the dog’s behavior to Ben” means I gave more understanding about the dog’s behavior to Ben. I talked with Ben about the dog.

“I explained to the dog about Ben” means I gave more understanding about Ben to the dog. I talked with the dog about Ben.

2) To describe something means to give more details about it. To describe to something/someone means to give more understanding to them.

For example, “I described the dog to Ben” means I gave more details about the dog to Ben. I talked with Ben about the dog.

“I described Ben to the dog” means I gave more details about Ben to the dog. I talked with the dog about Ben.

3) If you say “describe me”, it means “Give me a description of me”, or “What kind of a person am I?”

But if you say “describe to me”, it means the description is told to me.

If you say “explain to me”, it is correct. But if you say “explain me” it is incorrect and sounds like you are not using English naturally. “Explain me” is a common phrase in other languages (such as Russian for example), so make sure you remember to add “to” 🙂

Now Let’s Practice:

End of Sample Lesson

Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates, and Special Offers Directly to Your Email

Join our mailing list now and get a special bonus:
The first 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time. We use an email marketing platform. By clicking to submit this form, you acknowledge that the information you provide will be transferred to our email marketing platform for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms.

Click to share:

Similar Posts