Understanding and interpretation of texts

We are surrounded by texts all the time and read them all the time of the day, however, much is said about understanding and interpreting texts being synonymous and not having differences, which generates several doubts, whether in school or professional contexts, such as in contexts of tests and selection processes.

According to what we learn at school, the reading process has its stages for a text to be assimilated. Understanding and interpretation are steps in this process and differ in terms of their objectives.

Understanding is the act of inferring about what has been read, of understanding the main content and ideas and thematic of what is being read. When a person reads a text, first he decodes those sets of letters that are forming him, then he understands what the combination of these letters form and the meaning they acquire in that context, that is, they recognize the text from the combination of words and sentences that create the context. This is a purely objective analysis.

To understand, then, it is necessary to know the meanings of words , to understand what they mean when they come together in sentences, in a way that captures all linguistic levels: morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic (the contextual level). It is also necessary to have previous knowledge about the topics covered to capture the intended meaning.

The interpretation depends on understanding to occur, it is a level beyond, is the level that the caller picks up the main text and can develop a critique of it, make judgments and questions, drawing conclusions about what was understood. In this process, the knowledge obtained from understanding is expanded by joining it with the knowledge of the world that you already have. It is, therefore, a subjective analysis, it can vary according to the person and the possible deductions.


Interpretation is still idiosyncratic and depends on this previous knowledge to occur, besides that it ends up generating several possibilities of interpretation, since to occur, it mixes with previous knowledge, which is different for each person.

To interpret a text is to go beyond comprehension, in addition to capturing what was said, but how it was said and what was the intention of who said or wrote something. Within this process, it is necessary to have reasoning, observation, historical and grammatical knowledge of cohesion, coherence, synonyms, antonyms, polysemy, among other characteristics that can give rise to errors of interpretation.

Briefly, the following conclusions are drawn about each of the processes, see the table below:

Understand To interpret
Which is Understand the content of a text, pay attention to what was written draw conclusions about what was understood in reading, have the ability to explain, judge and deduce
Examples of statements ‘The text says that’

‘The author suggests that’

‘The author claims that…’

‘From this text it appears that …’

‘With reading this text we can conclude that…’


It is important to understand the differences in the meaning of these two terms in order not to get confused anymore. Understanding what each one means, it is easier to perform any test that appears ahead.


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