Implicit vs. Explicit – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 3, 2017/ Uncategorized

implicit versus explicit

What is the Difference Between Implicit and Explicit?

Implicit and explicit are both adjectives that share the same ending. However, they have opposite meanings. This can make the two words confusing.

Implicit means not stated directly but implied or hinted at.

  • She didn’t say she would kill me exactly, but she did say, “It would be a shame if something happened to you,” in a menacing way.

Explicit means stated directly. In other words, something explicit is very clear and exact about the meaning.

  • I don’t have a feeling that he will fire a lot of employees. I know it for certain. I know because he explicitly said that he would during the last meeting. (explicitly is the adverb form of the word)

Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these words are used.

Using Implicit in a Sentence

When to use implicit: Implicit is an adjective that describes some information that a person hints at but doesn’t say directly.

For example,

  • There was no rule in the student handbook against boys wearing skirts, but there was still an implicit understanding amongst the students that the school administration wouldn’t accept it.
  • The parent told the child, “Stop. Or else.” Although the parent didn’t directly say what the punishment would be, the child understood the implicit meaning that the punishment would be severe.

Implicit comes from the same Latin verb as the word implicate.

Using Explicit in a Sentence

When to use explicit: Explicit is an adjective that describes information that is stated directly and clearly, without any question about the meaning. Explicit has another meaning which describes a form of entertainment that includes a lot of graphic nudity or sexual activity.

For example:

  • I’m not guessing that my grandfather is racist. I know he is because he said that he was. It was very explicit.
  • You absolutely can’t drink any alcohol at all while you’re driving! That’s not a suggestion; that’s an explicit law!

Explicit comes from the same Latin verb as the word explain.

Remembering Implicit vs. Explicit

One way to remember the difference between these two words is to look at the first two letters of each.

Implicit starts with the prefix im. Im has the meaning of in. People find the meaning of implicit information within themselves, because no one says it out loud.

Alternatively, explicit starts with the prefix ex, which means out. This can help you remember that people understand explicit information because someone clearly says exactly what he or she means out loud.

Outside Examples

  • Sedgwick was an heiress, and much of the book’s power grows on Stein’s implicit understanding of what drove her into the role of Warhol’s “poor little rich girl” and the way she used that understanding to frame her interviews around the dangers of that role. –The Guardian
  • So what do the findings of the study mean for women and women of color affected by these hostile environments? Richey said some companies are already working to fix gender and race related problems through town halls, meetings and new committees where community members are able to discuss sexual harassment, racism, and implicit bias. –USA Today
  • She played a hooker with a heart of gold, loyally following the British Navy, yet never finding happiness because she was, well, a hooker. Although the second act featured jazz music, always a lurid sign, the show itself was not particularly explicit, and it had completed an out-of-town warmup in New London, Conn., without incident. –New York Daily News
  • “It is not explicit in the slightest! It is a shame that nudity is still considered offensive, especially for the reasons I talk about. I agree, we need to stop sexualizing the human body…and that is exactly what my photos and messages are aimed at doing!” –New York Post

Quiz: Explicit vs. Implicit

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either explicit or implicit, in the correct form.

  • ______________ information is often easier to argue about and debate, since the exact meaning is open to interpretation.
  • _______________ information, on the other hand, explains the meaning clearly so people can understand it easily.
  • Some teachers are vague about their classroom rule and expect students to have an ______________ understanding of academic behavior.
  • Children learn language in an ____________ manner, because they are too young to learn grammar rules.
  • I can’t believe you cheated on your essay when I gave _____________ instructions not to plagiarize!

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use implicit or explicit? These two words share the same ending, and they are both adjectives. However, they have opposite meanings.

  • Implicit means not directly stated or hinted at.
  • Explicit means stated directly or explained clearly and fully.

Using the information above can help to ensure that you don’t mix up these two similar sounding, yet differently defined, words.

Quiz Answers

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