the difference between words: realize and understand

realize char front (Medium)

Some people get confused between the meanings of “realize” and “understand”, so I’m going to write about that today.

In English, we use the word “realize” when we think about something that is confusing for us and then suddenly know its true meaning. We can also use “realize” when we suddenly discover the reality of a situation that we didn’t know before because something happens to make us understand it.

We use “understand” when we can comprehend information or a situation. For example:

After I thought about it for a long time, I realized I would have to get an education if I wanted to be successful in life.

I didn’t realize that restaurant was so popular until my friend and I went there. We had to wait 45 minutes to get a table!

I realized that I had left my cell phone at home when I put my hand in my pocket.

I first realized how hard it is to speak another language when I took a Spanish class about five years ago.

I understand why Jim is so angry about not getting a promotion because the same thing happened to me.

I didn’t understand the meaning of that word, so I looked it up in a dictionary.

I understand philosophy because it was my major at university.

A: Do you understand what Carol is talking about?

B: No, she’s always talking about science, so it’s over my head.

So, with the examples for “realize” we use that word because the person comes to know the reality of the situation because they think about it for a long time, they go to the restaurant and see that it’s popular, they feel their cell phone is not in their pocket and they take a Spanish class and have a hard time with it.

In the last example for “understand” I use the idiom to be “over someone’s head”. I wrote about this idiom before, but if you don’t remember the meaning, you can check my blog entry for March 28, 2010.


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