solve or resolve

Solve vs Resolve – What’s the Difference?

Solve and resolve can seem like they are the same word when you look at them. They look alike, sound alike, but the meanings of the two words are different and should be used in different contexts.

Solve usually refers to the process of finding a correct answer to the problem, where resolve refers to bringing the problem to an end or conclusion. There is no set answer for resolving a problem, but there is for solving a problem.


Solve means discovering the answer to a question or problem. For example, you solve a math problem, you solve a mystery, or you solve a crime. It can also mean to pay something off, like a debt, in full.

This word is a verb and comes from the Latin word solver, meaning to untie or loosen. There are steps that you can take to solve a problem and reach a solution.

When it comes to solving a problem, you will easily be able to identify the problem at hand, develop alternative ways to fix the problem, choose the best alternative, implement your choice, and find out if it works. If it does, you solve the problem. If not, start over and try again.

Can you help me solve this math problem?

I solved the mystery before reaching the end of the book.

Yelling won’t help solve your problems.

This maze is impossible to solve, we’re lost!

I was so relieved when I finally solved my debt to the bank.


Resolve has multiple meanings and can be used as a verb or a noun. It can refer to solving a problem between two or more people, but not everyone is satisfied with the solution.

To resolve something is to make the problem go away or bring an end to the issue. If you are saying a problem has been solved, you can say that it has been resolved.

Resolve can also refer to dealing with something successfully, such as doubt or a dispute. In fewer words, it means to settle or find an answer to a dispute or argument.

Resolve is also a character trait that consists of determination. The person who shows resolve will control the situation and come up with a solution. Arguments will lead to problems and without a way to resolve them, the argument will likely continue.

The best way to resolve a situation is to talk it out.

There was nothing that had the ability to weaken his resolve to continue the mission.

Before I knew it, the problem was resolved, and everything was back to normal.

The girls resolved their argument by compromising with each other.

I have resolved that I am going to live life to the fullest.

When to Use Solve and Resolve

The two words have slightly different contexts. For example, solve is objective and resolve is subjective. Problems that need to be solved will have a factual answer. Problems that need to be resolved usually have a flexible, debatable solution.

Solve concerns problems of logic. You would solve a math problem, a dilemma, a riddle, or a computing problem. You solve a mystery when you figure out what happened. You solve money problems when you get a paycheck.

Resolve concerns problems of emotion. You would resolve a conflict, dispute, or disagreement. You resolve an argument or misunderstanding. There is no one set answer to resolve these problems, so they are emotional problems.

In other words, a solution is always there, you just need to find it. A resolution is not always there, it is a solution you make up to solve something.