Choose the right word
clarify, construe, elucidate, explain, explicate, interpret
When a biology teacher gets up in front of a class and tries to explain how two brown-eyed parents can produce a blue-eyed child, the purpose is to make an entire process or sequence of events understandable. In a less formal sense, to explain is to make a verbal attempt to justify certain actions or to make them understood ( she tried to explain why she was so late). That same teacher might clarify a particular exam question that almost everyone in the class got wrong—clarify being a word that means to make an earlier event, situation, or statement clear. Elucidate is a more formal word meaning to clarify, but where the root of the latter refers to clearness, the root of the former refers to light; to elucidate is to shed light on something through explanation, illustration, etc. ( the principal's comments were an attempt to elucidate the school's policy on cheating). A teacher who explicates something discusses a complex subject in a point-by-point manner ( to explicate a poem). If a personal judgment is inserted in making such an explication, the correct word is interpret ( to interpret a poem's symbolic meanings). To construe is to make a careful interpretation of something, especially where the meaning is ambiguous. For example, when a class misbehaves in front of a visitor, the teacher is likely to construe that behavior as an attempt to cause embarrassment or ridicule.