Difference between Imply and Infer

December 20, 2016 by Editorial Team

Let’s start by taking a look at this statement:

  • My parents have been vegans for 40 years, so they were really shocked when they found out that I eat meat. Well, they did not exactly say they are upset, but the letter they sent me this morning implied/inferred that they are.

The last statement in the example above lets you choose between “implied” and “inferred.” A lot of you may be able to pinpoint the correct word to use right away, but others may have a difficult time telling the difference between the two. The words “imply” and “infer” are actually opposites, but are easily mistakenly interchanged. If you are one of those who think both mean the same thing, then this article is for you.

Definitions

The word “imply” originates from an old French term which means “to enfold.” It is a verb which means “to indirectly suggest an idea.” When a message is “implied,” the speaker’s idea is buried in his actual statement. To better explain this, let us take a look at some examples below:

  1. When my mum said my boyfriend and I are like peanut butter and ketchup, she implied that she did not like him, because we are just so different.
  2. Barney’s email implied that the management declined Ted’s proposal. Ted is his best pal, so it was difficult for Barney to break it to him.
  3. The author did not say it, but page 78 implies that Robin moved to Japan after the breakup.

On the other hand, the word “infer” is derived from a Latin term that means “to bring in.” It is a verb which means “to conclude or to figure.” When a listener “infers,” he creates his own interpretation of the message; specifically, one that is not directly mentioned in the speaker’s statement. Let’s see some examples below:

  1. When Betty said no to Archie’s invitation, he inferred that she was still mad at him.
  2. Looking at Sabrina’s sales report, we can infer that our customers liked the old product formulation better.
  3. They were kind of comfortable around each other, so I inferred they had met before the acquaintance party.

Comparison

To imply means to indirectly say something, or to hide the real message in the statement, while to infer means to guess, or to figure out the speaker’s real message. The listener infers, while the speaker implies.

Comparison Chart

ImplyInfer
Means to indirectly say something; an implied message means it is hidden and the speaker did not explicitly say itMeans to guess, to deduce, or to figure out the message of the speaker
Done by the speakerDone by the listener