resolve / solve

This is a tough one – do you solve a problem or resolve a problem?

The answer is both. Solve and resolve do have slightly different meanings, though. To resolve something means to deal with and finish it in a satisfactory way:

  • resolve an argument
  • resolve a conflict / dispute
  • resolve differences between two people or two opinions

    When something is resolved, it may not have been resolved in the best way; but at least it is settled.

    To solve something means to find the CORRECT answer, or to fix it successfully:

  • You solve a math problem (find the right answer)
  • The police solve a crime (find the truth about it)
  • A detective solves a mystery (discover the truth)
  • If something on the website is not working, and you discover the reason for the problem and fix it successfully, you have solved the problem.

    Problems can be solved or resolved depending on their nature. When there are multiple opinions and points of view that must be reconciled, we usually use resolve:

  • The Human Resources department is trying to resolve the problem between the manager and his employees.

    When there is probably a correct answer, a successful solution that will eliminate the problem, we usually use solve:

  • The payroll department is trying to solve the problem of the paychecks going to the wrong bank accounts – it’s probably a computer bug that needs to be fixed.