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discern between someone or something and someone or something

to detect the difference between people and things. I cannot discern between the dark trees and the dark sky behind them. I cannot discern between the person and the background.
See also: and, discern

discern someone or something from something (else)

to detect the difference between someone or something and something else. I can hardly discern Tom from the busy background in this picture. I can't discern anything from that cluttered scene.
See also: discern

discern something from someone or something

to learn or determine something from someone or something. We discerned a lot from the eyewitnesses. We discerned a lot from our discussions with the past president.
See also: discern
References in classic literature ?
If such a miracle had been wrought, however, no traces of it remained behind, for within the antique frame nothing could be discerned save the impenetrable cloud, which had covered the canvas since the memory of man.
She had seen Antonio--every thing about him equalled her expectations--even at the distance, she had easily discerned the noble dignity of his manners--his eye gave assurance of his conscious worth--his very attitude was that of a gentleman.
Her pale face became paler; the circles under her eyes deepened, as they did when tears half-gather without falling; and the mild loving eyes took an expression of appalled pity, as if she had suddenly discerned a destroying angel hovering over the heads of the people.
I discerned that there would be contrasts between his inward and outward man; contentions, too; for I suspected his soul had more of will and ambition than his body had of fibre and muscle.
I began to think we were fairly snared, and had almost made up my mind that without a pair of wings we should never be able to escape from the toils; when all at once I discerned a peep of daylight through the canes on my right, and, communicating the joyful tidings to Toby, we both fell to with fresh spirit, and speedily opening the passage towards it we found ourselves clear of perplexities, and in the near vicinity of the ridge.
It was now perfectly dark, not a single star was there to direct my steps, and I know not what might have befallen me had I not at length discerned thro' the solemn Gloom that surrounded me a distant light, which as I approached it, I discovered to be the chearfull Blaze of your fire.
Both these extremes are to be avoided; which will be done, if the league of Christians, penned by our Savior himself, were in two cross clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expounded: He that is not with us, is against us; and again, He that is not against us, is with us; that is, if the points fundamental and of substance in religion, were truly discerned and distinguished, from points not merely of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention.
But so low did the building stand, that she found herself passing through the great gates of the lodge into the very grounds of Northanger, without having discerned even an antique chimney.
He had grown used to the loud voice, and when the headmaster's heavy hand was laid on his shoulder Philip discerned vaguely the intention of a caress.
The turrets of a convent stood out beyond a wild virgin pine forest, and far away on the other side of the Enns the enemy's horse patrols could be discerned.
So, too, is it impossible to conjecture just what her emotions may have been as she discerned the lights of a flier speeding rapidly out of the distance from that very direction, as though impelled toward her garden by the very intensity of the princess' thoughts.
Moreover, when McLeod manipulated some of the Hubble images to distinguish more clearly between the quasars and their environs, she discerned some of the same fuzzy blobs.
Using the same apparatus, another eight participants discerned the dimensions of vibrating steel, wood, and Plexiglas plates.
Astronomers more than a century ago dubbed such gaseous structures planetary nebulae because their disk like shape, as discerned in the telescopes of the day, reminded the researchers of planets.
On nearby land, geologists have discerned the outline of a former bay that has filled with silt since the conflict.