9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[uhn-der-stoo d] /ˌʌn dərˈstʊd/
simple past tense and past participle of understand.
agreed upon; known in advance; assented to:
It is the understood policy of this establishment to limit credit.
implied but not stated; left unexpressed: The understood meaning of a danger sign is “Do not approach.”.
Related forms
half-understood, adjective
nonunderstood, adjective
self-understood, adjective
well-understood, adjective


[uhn-der-stand] /ˌʌn dərˈstænd/
verb (used with object), understood, understanding.
to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; comprehend:
to understand Spanish; I didn't understand your question.
to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of:
to understand a trade.
to assign a meaning to; interpret:
He understood her suggestion as a complaint.
to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of:
He does not understand responsibility.
to regard as firmly communicated; take as agreed or settled:
I understand that you will repay this loan in 30 days.
to learn or hear:
I understand that you are going out of town.
to accept as true; believe:
I understand that you are trying to be truthful, but you are wrong.
to construe in a particular way:
You are to understand the phrase literally.
to supply mentally (something that is not expressed).
verb (used without object), understood, understanding.
to perceive what is meant; grasp the information conveyed:
She told them about it in simple words, hoping they would understand.
to accept tolerantly or sympathetically:
If you can't do it, I'll understand.
to have knowledge or background, as on a particular subject:
He understands about boats.
to have a systematic interpretation or rationale, as in a field or area of knowledge:
He can repeat every rule in the book, but he just doesn't understand.
Origin of understand
before 900; Middle English understanden, understonden, Old English understondan; cognate with Dutch onderstaan. See under-, stand
Related forms
preunderstand, verb, preunderstood, preunderstanding.
1. See know1 . Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for understood
  • Scalded by scandal himself, he understood that in art what is hidden or implied can be more telling than what is made explicit.
  • The derivation of the term is not usually understood.
  • Neither the war neuroses nor the traumatic neuroses of peace are as yet fully understood.
  • Such attempts at dangerous agitation may periodically return, but with each the object will be better understood.
  • But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.
  • Their nature will perhaps be best understood by recalling the manner in which history writing originated among ancient nations.
  • He was so in earnest in everything he did and said that no one understood him.
  • It must not be understood, however, that metaphysics was a central interest of the transcendentalists.
  • Biologists have begun to categorize those noises, but the species' communication is still poorly understood.
  • Less understood, however, is what becomes of those patterns at moments of incomplete recall.
British Dictionary definitions for understood


the past tense and past participle of understand
implied or inferred
taken for granted; assumed


verb -stands, -standing, -stood
(may take a clause as object) to know and comprehend the nature or meaning of: I understand you, I understand what you mean
(may take a clause as object) to realize or grasp (something): he understands your position
(transitive; may take a clause as object) to assume, infer, or believe: I understand you are thinking of marrying
(transitive) to know how to translate or read: can you understand Spanish?
(transitive; may take a clause as object; often passive) to accept as a condition or proviso: it is understood that children must be kept quiet
(transitive) to be sympathetic to or compatible with: we understand each other
Derived Forms
understandable, adjective
understandably, adverb
Word Origin
Old English understandan; related to Old Frisian understonda, Middle High German understān step under; see under, stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for understood



Old English understandan "comprehend, grasp the idea of," probably literally "stand in the midst of," from under + standan "to stand" (see stand). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning "beneath," but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- "between, among" (cf. Sanskrit antar "among, between," Latin inter "between, among," Greek entera "intestines;" see inter-).

That is the suggestion in Barnhart, but other sources regard the "among, between, before, in the presence of" sense of Old English prefix and preposition under as other meanings of the same word. "Among" seems to be the sense in many Old English compounds that resemble understand, e.g. underniman "to receive," undersecan "to investigate," underginnan "to begin." It also seems to be the sense still in expressions such as under such circumstances.

Perhaps the ultimate sense is "be close to," cf. Greek epistamai "I know how, I know," literally "I stand upon." Similar formations are found in Old Frisian (understonda), Middle Danish (understande), while other Germanic languages use compounds meaning "stand before" (cf. German verstehen, represented in Old English by forstanden). For this concept, most Indo-European languages use figurative extensions of compounds that literally mean "put together," or "separate," or "take, grasp" (see comprehend). Old English oferstandan, Middle English overstonden, literally "over-stand" seem to have been used only in literal senses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with understood


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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