Explicit Meaning: Definition, Explanation & Practice

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore what it means to be explicit. We illustrate this with real-world examples before diving into a few example sentences for practice.

Between the Lines

Have you ever had any one tell you to 'read between the lines?' It is an idiom; an expression meant to encourage you to think critically and figure out what is going on when things are not obvious. When something is obvious, or stated directly in a text, it is called being explicit.

In this lesson, we will discuss what it means to state something explicitly and how to do it, as well as examine a few practice sentences that will illustrate what being explicit means.

Explicit vs. Implicit

When something is stated explicitly, this means the exact meaning of something is clearly stated. The meaning should be clear and obvious to anyone reading the statement. Stating things explicitly is often important in professional settings, such as in the workplace, a hospital, or in the classroom.

For example, if at the end of a meeting, your boss says 'someone take care of this,' she is not being very explicit. Depending on the nature of the meeting, you may not be sure exactly what she means. However, if your boss states her wishes explicitly, saying 'make sure your team finishes the report and has it to me by close of business' then you know exactly what she wants. Stating things explicitly can help clear up confusion.

The opposite of this, of course, is when something is stated implicitly, meaning the actual, explicit meaning is not directly stated, it is implied.

To help us illustrate just what we mean, let's look at a real-life example. Well, sort of a real-life example: a movie. Do you remember the last time you have been to a movie that included romance? There is a good chance that during that movie there was a scene where the two actors went out on a date, perhaps to dinner at a nice restaurant followed by a walk or another activity. The movie showed them having a good time, laughing, enjoying themselves, and even sharing a few kisses. After the date scene, the movie cuts to the two lovers waking up in bed together the next morning.

In this movie, whatever amorous activity happened in between that time period is implied. If that activity had been show explicitly in the movie, well, it would have been a completely different type of movie altogether.

In Text

Things get stated both explicitly and implicitly in texts all the time. When the meaning is obvious and stated clearly, it is explicit. If you are not exactly sure what the text is saying, or you have to think a bit about it before realizing what it means, it is probably not very explicit. Let's take a look at a few examples of explicit text done well.

  • The patient has been having contractions every 30 minutes, with a pain intensity of 7.
  • At the end of the block, turn left onto Maple Street, and walk 300 yards to the bus stop.

Both of these are clear, explicit statements. The first sentence is stating patient information, including exact statistics, while the second is giving clear and concise directions. Both are good examples of explicit text.


Now that we have a good handle on what is explicit and how it is conveyed, let's take a look at several sentences. In each, try to gauge if the meaning is explicit.

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