Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Elaborate: Meaning and Examples

To elaborate /iˈlæb.ə.reɪt/ (‘rate’ is pronounced like ‘date’ in the verb form of elaborate) is to add more details or to explain something more.

There are a few common phrases that you might hear that contain the word elaborate. In questions with can or could, the word elaborate can be substituted with give more details/explain in more detail.

  • Could you please elaborate?
  • Can you please elaborate?

Using could is slightly more formal than using can.

  • Please elaborate.

In this case, we could say, Please tell me in more detail. or Please give me more information.

More formally, you could say:

  • Would you mind elaborating?

You might also hear someone say, Allow me to elaborate. This means that they want to explain in more detail or give more information.

Instead of saying, Tell me more. you can say, Please elaborate. Please elaborate is more formal and academic than Please tell me more.

Adjective Form – Elaborate

The pronunciation of the adjective form differs from the verb. The adjective form is pronounced /iˈlæb.ɚ.ət/ (‘rate’ pronounced like ‘ret’).

For example:

  • She drew an elaborate design.
  • She was wearing an elaborate shirt.
  • The building plan was very elaborate.
  • They concocted an elaborate plan.
  • Elaborate explanations can be difficult to understand.
  • I don’t make elaborate meals. I prefer simple dishes.
  • The storyline is so elaborate that it is difficult to follow.

As an adjective, elaborate means that something contains a lot of detail, has a complicated design, or has many detailed parts. 

The Cambridge Dictionary has audio of both British and American English pronunciations if you’d like to hear the difference between the verb and adjective forms. You can also find more examples and explanations there.

Adverb Form

We can make elaborate an adverb in the typical way by adding -ly: elaborately Pronounced /ɪˈlæb·ə·rət·li/, similar to the adjective form.

For example:

  • The building was elaborately designed.

Noun Form

We can make elaborate a noun in the typical way using -tion): elaboration. It is pronounced /iˌlæb.əˈreɪ.ʃən/, similar to the verb form.

For example:

  • More elaboration is needed for us to understand your idea.

Latin Roots

While I rarely teach vocabulary in a traditional way, I actually love exploring words and their origins.

By looking at the roots of words, we can more easily understand and add other words to our vocabulary. Let’s take elaborate as an example.

Elaborate comes from Latin: ex/e (outer) and labor (work). So, we have work out and in the 16th century the meaning becomes to produce by effort of labor.

Now, can you think of other words that are similar? How about collaborate? You may know that col/co is Latin for together. So, now we have work together. This leads us to words with “co” like coed (coeducation), cooperate, commune, community, coexist, commiserate, compare, combine, communication…the list goes on!

Increasing your vocabulary – allow me to elaborate!

Many students have studied English by memorizing long lists of vocabulary. Unfortunately, most of the words they studied are forgotten or not easily remembered due to lack of use.

Related post: Increase Your English Vocabulary

Rather than teach lists of words that may never be used, I believe many students should increase their vocabulary by finding the gaps. If you are trying to express yourself and you don’t have the necessary vocabulary, there is a gap in your knowledge. Those are the words you need to find and learn. Find words that are meaningful to you. The words you need to use or that you hear often are the ones you’ll remember.

Reading for Vocabulary Improvement

Reading is also a natural way to increase your vocabulary. If you see words you don’t know, look them up, ask someone what they mean, or ask ChatGPT to explain. ChatGPT is a great resource and can even create reading material for your level. You can learn more about how to use ChatGPT in my post: ChatGPT for Language Learning.

Of course, it’s important to read things that are not too difficult. It is no fun not being able to understand most of what you read and having to look up too many words. Find material that is suitable to your level. Try to find material that you enjoy to make it more fun. You don’t always have to understand every word. Try to use context to help you get the main idea or gist.

Learn how to use context to understand new words.

gist: the main, essential, or important part of information, typically of spoken or written text

Listening for Vocabulary Improvement

Listening is another natural way to increase your vocabulary. Again, find podcasts, songs, TV shows, or YouTube videos that are not too difficult and that you enjoy. Connecting learning to your interests will greatly increase your motivation and ability to focus.

Check out my YouTube Channel here: Eavesdrop English

Of course, beginners learn vocabulary differently. However, if you are reading this, you are not a beginner. If you understand 80% or more of this, start increasing your vocabulary in a more natural way. If you really want to increase your vocabulary, you have to put in some time and effort. Why not make it more enjoyable and meaningful? You will be more motivated and more likely to learn if you are having fun doing it.

Recommended Vocabulary Course

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If you’re serious about increasing your vocabulary, I recommend the Vocabulary Builder Courses. There are 2 levels where you can learn 2000+ essential English words. There are free samples and lists of lessons that you can preview without making a purchase.

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