Imply vs. infer

imply vs infer

It’s easy to understand why people get imply and infer confused. Their meanings are related and similar. In this post, I will explain what these two words mean and show you how you can remember the difference between the two.

imply: to suggest or express something in an indirect way

For example, if you are talking to your friend, and you notice their breath reeks of garlic and onions, you may pull out a tin of mints and say “Want one?” as a way of expressing to them indirectly that their breath stinks. In this case, you are implying they have smelly breath.

infer: to conclude, especially from an indirect suggestion

For example, if you just ate garlic and onions for lunch, and your friend asks you if you want a mint, you could infer from their indirect suggestion that you have smelly breath.

Memory aid
When you infer, you are taking in information to analyze in order to come to a conclusion.

So taking in information = infer since they both use in.

You can just remember that imply means the opposite.

With imply, you are putting out suggestions.

With infer, you are taking in information.

Quiz:
Choose either imply or infer for the spaces below.

  1. Trixie yawned and yawned in order to _____ to her guests that it was late and she wanted them to leave.
  2. Trixie looked at her failing quiz grades and _____ed she needed to study really hard for the final.
  3. Trixie stopped answering Brad’s texts, trying to _____ that she didn’t want to talk to him anymore.
  4. Brad gave Trixie flowers and asked what she was doing Friday night, _____ing he wanted to go on a date with her.
  5. When her aunt asked whether she ever wanted kids, Trixie burst out laughing. Her aunt _____ed her answer was no.

1) imply; 2) inferred; 3) imply 4) implying; 5) inferred

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and owner of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company helping women reach their publishing goals. To see whether her services are right for you, and to schedule your free five-page sample edit or thirty-minute coaching consultation, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

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