The phrases “explain me” and “explain to me” are different. Only one of them is correct when you want to ask somebody to provide information for you, and this article will look at which is the best one to use.
Which Is Correct: “Explain Me” Or “Explain To Me”?
“Explain to me” is correct when asking somebody to provide further information about an object. You will include the object after the phrase (i.e., “explain to me the origins of this word”). “Explain me” only works when asking someone to explain our characteristics and personalities.
The definition of “explain,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to make something clear or easy to understand by describing or giving information about it.”
“Explain to me” comes with a direct object after it every time. The phrase “explain to me” cannot work as a standalone sentence because it doesn’t ask the listener to explain anything in particular.
“Explain me” removes “to” from the phrase, meaning we’re no longer being “explained to.” Instead, we’re simply being “explained,” meaning that somebody is studying us and explaining the things that they see.
Is “Explain Me” Or “Explain To Me” Used The Most?
It may already be fairly obvious which of these two phrases is used more frequently. Still, we have the visual representation of both phases that might help you to understand them a little better.
According to this graph, “explain to me” is vastly more popular. We have used it over the last two hundred years to mean the same thing, and it always talks about someone giving us details and information about something.
“Explain me” is only correct when we want somebody to explain us, which is why it’s rarely used. Compared to “explain to me” in the above graph, it looks like “explain me” doesn’t even come off the bottom line.
The two phrases are not interchangeable, which is where a lot of non-native speakers get confused. To help you understand this, look at the following examples:
- Correct: Explain to me again about chimpanzees.
- Incorrect: Explain me the wonders of the universe.
- Correct: Explain to me the history of this country.
- Incorrect: Explain me the hierarchy here.
Is It Ever Correct To Use “Explain Me”?
While “explain me” is rare and very jarring to most native speakers, that doesn’t mean it’s fundamentally wrong. In fact, it still follows all of the expected grammatical rules of a sentence structure; it just doesn’t get used.
“Explain me” is correct only when we want someone to explain something about ourselves. It uses the verb “explain” and the pronoun “me” to ask someone to explain something about ourselves (be it personality or characteristics).
You’ll almost never see this phrase used, and most native speakers will think it’s strange if you say it. That’s because there are better verbs to ask somebody to “explain” you in some way.
- Describe me
- Evaluate me (i.e., workplace performance)
We might use “describe” as the verb to ask somebody to talk about something specific to do with us rather than the synonymous word “explain.”
Examples Of How To Use “Explain Me” In A Sentence
While “explain me” is jarring and strange, there are still cases where it will work. It’s very specific, but you might use it as follows:
- I’d like you to explain me. I don’t want you to leave anything out!
- Can you explain me? I think that would be really interesting!
- He started explaining me, which had never happened before!
- If you’d stop explaining me for one second, I’d like to put in some input.
“Explain me” is a verb and pronoun combination that means “describe me.” We use it to ask someone to talk about something to do with ourselves, though it’s very rare to come across in normal English speaking and writing.
Examples Of How To Use “Explain To Me” In A Sentence
“Explain to me” is the most popular form and the one that you’re more likely to see. You’ll find it when someone is talking to someone about information or details about a particular thing.
- Can you explain to me why you were late again today?
- Explain to me why we can’t go to Disneyland this year.
- Would you care to explain to me what happened before I write this up?
- He was explaining to me what happened, but I didn’t catch most of it.
- I explained to him how to do it, and he picked it up very quickly.
- She explained to me that it was much easier than I first realized.
- You explained to me the simple history of this country, and I’m thankful for that.
“Explain to me” is a verb form we use when we ask somebody to explain something to us and give us details about it.
We can also replace “me” with any other pronoun (like “him” or “them”) and have it still make sense. The object we use simply refers to the person that we’re explaining something to.
What Does It Mean To Explain To Someone?
We’ve covered all the language rules, but we haven’t taken much time to explain the meaning yet, so we’ll do that now.
When you “explain to someone,” it means you’re helping them to understand something by providing details and information that pertains to that thing. They might have asked you for an explanation, and you are providing that information for their benefit.
When we “explain to someone,” we can use any number of verb tenses for “explain” and any number of pronouns for “someone.” Here are just a few examples of what we can say:
- Explained to me
- Explain to them
- Explaining to him
- Explain to her
- Explain to you
- Explained to us
“Explain Me” And “Explain To Me” – Synonyms
It might help you to go through some synonyms and alternatives to the two phrases as well. If you’re struggling with any of the differences, maybe some of these will be more appropriate for you:
- Give me an explanation of
- Describe to me
- Spell out
- Put into words
- Express in words
- Clarify for me
- Translate for me
All of the above synonyms are verbs or verb phrases, and they all work well to replace “explain to me.”
“Explain me” is rarely used, which is why we didn’t cover any synonyms for it. You won’t find many native speakers using it. Instead, you can use one of the following, which might be more likely:
- Describe me
- Talk about me
- What do you like about me?
Is It “Can Someone Explain Me” Or “Can Someone Explain To Me”?
Sometimes, we might not ask a specific person to explain something to us. When this happens, we start by saying “can someone” and then asks the phrase “explain to me.”
“Can someone explain to me” is correct when we want to ask somebody in the room to explain something to us. We don’t have a direct target; we just hope that somebody around us knows what’s going on and how to explain it simply.
- Can someone explain to me what’s going on here?
- Can someone explain to me what he just said?
- Can someone explain to me what I should do?
“Can someone explain to me” is a question we ask the room or the people around us. We’re hoping that somebody around us has the answer that we’re looking for that will help us to understand what’s happening.
Is It “Can You Explain To Me” Or “Could You Explain To Me”?
“Can” and “could” are synonymous in most ways, and both are used to start a question asking whether someone is able to do something for us.
“Can you explain to me” is more popular than “could you explain to me.” They are both correct, but “can you” is better at asking somebody to help us out right away, while “could you” is better at being polite and allowing people time to think about helping.
According to this graph, “can you explain to me” is much more popular than “could you explain to me” and has grown exponentially over the last two decades, meaning that it’s by far the most popular choice for native speakers.
Is It “Explain This To Me” Or “Explain This For Me”?
The preposition we use with “explain” is just as important as the sentence structure.
“Explain this to me” is correct because we’re asking somebody to explain something to us, meaning they’re directing the information and explanation to us, which helps us to understand it. “Explain this for me” is incorrect, as “for” is not the right preposition.
According to this graph, “explain this to me” is by far the most popular choice, while “explain this for me” is never used. This shows that “to” is correct, while “for” doesn’t work.
Is It “Explain Me The Meaning” Or “Explain The Meaning To Me”?
Both “explain me the meaning” and “explain the meaning to me” are correct, though most native speakers prefer “explain the meaning to me” as it’s less jarring and follows the standard rules.
According to this graph, both phases are almost identical in usage. “Explain the meaning to me” has been more popular historically, but as of today, both are equal, making them both good choices for you.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.