"Blow up" and "explode"

wbjamester

New Member
English-U.S.A.
Are "explode" and "blow up" used the same way in sentences?
I'm teaching an English class right now I'm a little stuck on this. I read the sentence "In recent years, teams of experts in countries such as Cambodia and Angola have safely exploded mines in order to rid those countries of these dangerous weapons." I feel like when someone or something (Cambodia and Angola) acts upon something else (mines) it is more natural to use the word "blew up." Any insight on this? Any native speakers feel the same way?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Welcome to the forum, Wbjamester. Both "explode" and "blow up" work in your sentence. Merriam-Webster certainly accepts "explode" as a transitive verb. As native speakers use many phrasal verbs, "blow up" is very common in lively speech. There's nothing unusual about "explode", however.
     
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    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I tend to think that mines and bombs explode on their own, and we blow them up if we find them in the backyard. But that's just a personal opinion.

    Welcome to the forum. :)
     

    -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm in firm agreement with Copyright and panjandrum.

    While you certainly do see explode used transitively, e.g. "They exploded mines," this usage of it irritates me and, to me, sounds somewhat unprofessional — and I think many speakers would agree.

    I would be more likely to say "They blew up mines," or, "They detonated mines [...]"
     
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    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't use "explode" transitively myself, Mack. I use "blow up" as you, Copyright, and Panjandrum do. However, I hate to condemn a word that other speakers use.
     

    -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    Yeah, I should make clear that it's not an authoritative/official distinction; just how some people perceive it. :)
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There is nothing at all wrong with using "to explode" transitively. Indeed, one of the meanings requires a transitive use. To quote the COED
    explode
    verb
    1 burst or shatter violently, especially as a result of rapid combustion or excessive internal pressure.
    2 suddenly express strong emotion, especially anger.
    3 increase suddenly in number or extent.
    4 show (a belief or theory) to be false or unfounded.
    Meaning 1 permits transitive or intransitive use.
    Meaning 2 requires intransitive use.
    Meaning 3 requires intransitive use.
    Meaning 4 requires transitive use.

    "They exploded the mine" is, to me, as normal a use as "the mine exploded". I can't see anything unprofessional about it, but then I don't know too many professional mine clearance specialists so I can't ask them what they think of it. The only professionals in the field that I know used to drop mines (until British government policy changed), so they were never there when the mines exploded. ;)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Another difference ...
    You can blow up a bridge (for example), but not explode a bridge.
    The bomb explodes and blows up the bridge.
    a. trans. To shatter, destroy, or otherwise act upon by means of explosion.
    OED
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Another difference ...
    You can blow up a bridge (for example), but not explode a bridge.
    The bomb explodes and blows up the bridge.
    a. trans. To shatter, destroy, or otherwise act upon by means of explosion.
    OED
    Perhaps that's part of it: you blow up things that are not in themselves explosive: trains, planes, cars, buildings, tree stumps, and the like.

    To this blow-upable list, I add inert explosives: mines, WWII artillery shells, munitions dumps, discovered IEDs (improvised explosive devices), etc.

    Again, that's just me.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    To this blow-upable list, I add inert explosives: mines, WWII artillery shells, munitions dumps, discovered IEDs (improvised explosive devices), etc.

    Again, that's just me.
    I'm not convinced about mines and IEDs being inert!

    By stepping on the mine, he exploded it (or detonated it)
    The Jeep wheel jolted over the rutted road and exploded (or triggered, or detonated) the concealed mine.
    The IED was exploded (or detonated) by the terrorist using a remote control device.

    If you are going to blow up a mine that would be an intended action, in order to dispose of it. If you exploded a mine that could be unintended (or intended by the person who laid it) or intended (as part of a mine clearance operation).
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm only speaking of intentionally getting rid of them, as in the original post. And I was just coming to add a further thought to my last post (but not before you answered). :)

    I think another reason I use blow up in these circumstances is that you are adding and detonating another explosive to destroy the original explosive. You don't normally use the explosive of the device (by whacking it, for example), but blow it up with something else -- obviously, the explosive of the offending device will explode, but it is not the trigger for the explosion.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm only speaking of intentionally getting rid of them, as in the original post.
    A fair point, indeed, ...
    I think another reason I use blow up in these circumstances is that you are adding and detonating another explosive to destroy the original explosive.
    ... and another fair point.

    I still don't have any objection to the original sentence "... have safely exploded mines in order to rid ..." since that provides a contrast to the alternative, which is local people becoming maimed by accidentally exploding them - I would not write "he lost his leg by blowing up a mine while walking in his field", I'd use "by exploding" or "by setting off" - in a way I am returning to an earlier post of yours - mines generally don't explode on their own, but only when somebody does something to a trigger mechanism (without getting too technical as some are supposed to clear themselves after a time delay and some cluster munitions are deliberately designed to explode spontaneously at irregular intervals).
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would not write "he lost his leg by blowing up a mine while walking in his field", I'd use "by exploding" or "by setting off"
    Totally agree ... if the mine goes off the way it was designed, it's not a job for blow up.

    For munitions, blow up is a phrase I prefer for intentionally getting rid of them. I wouldn't personally use explode in this case, but I wouldn't jump up and down on a mine about people who do. :)
     
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