Differences Between Infer and Imply

Do you know the differences between Infer and Imply?

Imply is a verb that means to suggest, indicate, or convey a meaning indirectly.

Infer is a verb that means to deduce, conclude, or understand something based on evidence or reasoning

Understanding the Differences

A key difference to note when deciding which to use is that the speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring. Take a look at these examples:

  • John didn't actually say he'd help me, but he implied (indicated) he would
  • Anne inferred (concluded) after listening to John that he would help her

As you'll see, in the first one, it's the speaker (John) who is not saying something directly, but implying it somehow, perhaps in his body language.

In the second one the listener, or person receiving the information, (Anne) makes an inference based on the evidence she has (i.e. the indirect indications John gave that he would help).

Examples of Imply and Infer

Let's look at some more examples of the differences between Infer and Imply.

Imply

Imply is a verb that means to suggest, indicate, or convey a meaning indirectly.

It's the speaker (or other entity) that is doing the implying. If something is implied, someone else is then making an educated guess based on the information they have been told or received. 

Examples of Imply

  • Jane's words implied that she knew the secret
    (so her words suggest this - Jane is doing the implying)

  • The advertisement implies that their product is the best
    (so the advert is not saying it's the best directly but doing so indirectly somehow).

  • His silence implied his disagreement.
    (his silence leads others to guess he disagrees - he hasn't said he disagrees)

  • The professor's question implied a deeper understanding.

  • The painting implies a sense of loneliness.

Infer

So as noted above, infer is a verb that means to deduce, conclude, or understand something based on evidence or reasoning.

You'll notice from these examples that something that someone has done, or some other action, data or information, leads the person to be able to make an 'inference'.

Examples of Infer

  • From his tone, I inferred that he was upset.
    (so the listener is making an inference from the tone of the other person)

  • The data allows us to infer certain patterns.

  • She inferred from his actions that he was lying.

  • The detective inferred the suspect's motive.

  • Based on the clues, we can infer what happened.

Test yourself in this infer vs imply quiz >>

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