Implicit vs. Explicit: What’s the Difference?

There are many words in English that despite having very similar sounds have completely different meanings. This can lead to confusion and usage problems for native and non-native speakers alike, and the words implicit vs. explicit are no exception to this.

These two words have almost opposite meanings but are regularly confused because of their similar sound. Since they do have such different meanings, you want to be sure you’re using the right one. In this post, I want to go over the definitions of these words, explain their differences, and have you take a quiz on their meanings.

After reading this post, you won’t ever again ask yourself the question, “Is it explicit or implicit?”

When to Use Implicit

Implicit or Explicit meaningThe definition of implicit is, “implied or understood though not plainly or directly expressed.” Something is, therefore, implicit when it is not directly stated but is either suggested in the wording or necessary to effectuate the purpose. For example,

  • There is a morality implicit in his writings.
  • She implicitly said she likes white shoes by saying she likes all colors but tan.

In the first example, the writer may not have clearly or directly laid out a moral vision, but it is understood through the characters, their actions, and their experiences.

In the second example, the woman states that she likes all shoe colors but tan. While she doesn’t directly say she likes white shoes, she implicitly does because white is not tan.

When to Use Explicit

The definition of explicit is, “to fully and clearly express something, leaving nothing implied.” Something is explicit when it is cleared stated and spelled out and there is no room for confusion, as in the writing of a contract or statute. For example,

  • The law was explicit in whose tax rates were to be raised.
  • He said explicitly, you will not attend that concert.

In both of these examples, the word explicit is used to demonstrate something that has been clearly and unambiguously expressed or stated. There is no room for doubt because everything is clearly and directly communicated.

This is what separates these two words. Something is implicit when it is implied but not directly stated. Something is explicit when it is directly stated and leaves no room for uncertainty.

Quiz and Sentence Examples

  1. The speaker’s intentions were not made ______.
  2. The students found an ______ political statement in their teacher’s remarks.
  3. Let me be ______, I do not support this.
  4. We have not finalized the decision, but have an ______ agreement.

Display the answers below.

Tricks to Remember

Here is a handy trick to remember the difference between these words. Remember this and you won’t ever fall short when thinking, “Is it implicit or explicit?”

A good way to keep explicit vs implicit apart is to remember that Implicit is an Implied or Indirect statement. Both of these start with the letter “I.”

Explicit starts with an “E” and is Spelled Out, so there is no confusion.


Implicit and explicit have near opposite meanings, so it’s important to remember their difference.

Implicit is indirectly stated or implied.

Explicit is directly stated and spelled out.

If you have any other questions about commonly misused English words, feel free to check out our other posts on affect/effect, principal/principle, and countless others.


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