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  • Definition
  • Compatibility
  • Syntax
  • Command Fields
  • Behavior
  • Output
  • Examples

The explain command provides information on the execution of the following commands: aggregate, count, distinct, find, findAndModify, delete, mapReduce, and update.


In mongosh, this command can also be run through the db.collection.explain() and cursor.explain() helper methods.

Helper methods are convenient for mongosh users, but they may not return the same level of information as database commands. In cases where the convenience is not needed or the additional return fields are required, use the database command.


Using explain ignores all existing plan cache entries and prevents the MongoDB query planner from creating a new plan cache entry.

This command is available in deployments hosted in the following environments:

  • MongoDB Atlas: The fully managed service for MongoDB deployments in the cloud


This command is supported in all MongoDB Atlas clusters. For information on all commands, see Unsupported Commands.

The command has the following syntax:

explain: <command>,
verbosity: <string>,
comment: <any>

The command takes the following fields:

A document specifying the command for which to return the execution information. For details on the specific command document, see aggregate, count, distinct, find, findAndModify, delete, mapReduce, and update.

Optional. A string specifying the mode in which to run explain. The mode affects the behavior of explain and determines the amount of information to return.

The possible modes are:

  • "queryPlanner"

  • "executionStats"

  • "allPlansExecution" (Default)

For more information on the modes, see explain behavior.


Optional. A user-provided comment to attach to this command. Once set, this comment appears alongside records of this command in the following locations:

A comment can be any valid BSON type (string, integer, object, array, etc).


If you specify explain without a comment, it inherits any comment in the command specified to explain.

The behavior of explain and the amount of information returned depend on the verbosity mode.

For write operations, the explain command returns information about the write operation that would be performed but does not actually modify the database.

The Stable API V1 supports the following verbosity modes for the explain command:


MongoDB does not guarantee any specific output format from the explain command, even when using the Stable API.

Starting in MongoDB 4.2, you cannot run the explain command/db.collection.explain() in executionStats mode or allPlansExecution mode for an aggregation pipeline that contains the $out stage. Instead, you can either:

  • run the explain in queryPlanner mode or

  • run the explain in executionStats mode or allPlansExecution mode but without the $out stage to return information for the stages that precede the $out stage.

explain operations can return information regarding:

  • explainVersion, the output format version (for example, "1").

  • command, which details the command being explained.

  • queryPlanner, which details the plan selected by the query optimizer and lists the rejected plans.

  • executionStats, which details the execution of the winning plan and the rejected plans.

  • serverInfo, which provides information on the MongoDB instance.

  • serverParameters, which details internal parameters.

The verbosity mode (i.e. queryPlanner, executionStats, allPlansExecution) determines whether the results include executionStats and whether executionStats includes data captured during plan selection.

Explain output is limited by the maximum Nested Depth for BSON Documents, which is 100 levels of nesting. Explain output that exceeds the limit is truncated.

For details on the output, see Explain Results.

The following explain command runs in "queryPlanner" verbosity mode to return the query planning information for a count command:

explain: { count: "products", query: { quantity: { $gt: 50 } } },
verbosity: "queryPlanner"

The following explain operation runs in "executionStats" verbosity mode to return the query planning and execution information for a count command:

explain: { count: "products", query: { quantity: { $gt: 50 } } },
verbosity: "executionStats"

By default, explain runs in "allPlansExecution" verbosity mode. The following explain command returns the queryPlanner and executionStats for all considered plans for an update command:


The execution of this explain will not modify data but runs the query predicate of the update operation. For candidate plans, MongoDB returns the execution information captured during the plan selection phase.

explain: {
update: "products",
updates: [
q: { quantity: 1057, category: "apparel" },
u: { $set: { reorder: true } }
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