Infer vs Imply: What’s The Difference?

Though often used interchangeably, infer vs imply actually refers to two very different words with unique meanings.

Do you get confused when trying to use the word infer vs imply? These two commonly confused words have similar meanings in English, but there are some subtle differences.

If you are going to become a skilled writer of the English language, you will need to know how to use imply vs. infer correctly in a sentence. Thankfully, with a little education, you can get these words correct every time.

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Exploring Infer Vs Imply

Infer vs imply

Infer and imply are both verbs and they both refer to communication. This is part of what makes them confusing words because they have similar uses. However, careful writers will take the time to learn the distinction between the two.

What Does Infer Mean?

The meaning of infer per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises” or “to guess or surmise.”

In other words, if you infer something, you make an educated guess, which is a guess that uses some existing facts. Here are some examples of infer used correctly in a sentence:

  • Am I correct to infer that you do not like my dress from the sour expression on your face?
  • Should I infer from the packed suitcase in your trunk that you are headed out on vacation?
  • The child inferred from her mother's tone of voice that it was time to start getting ready for bed.

Synonyms for Infer

If you are inferring something, you could also use one of these synonyms:

  • Conclude
  • Deduce
  • Derive
  • Decide
  • Extrapolate

Etymology of Infer

Infer comes from the Middle French and Latin languages. In Middle French, the word inferer, which comes from the Latin word Inferre, which both mean to carry or bring into. When you infer something, you bring your conclusion into the discussion, so this background makes sense.

What Does Imply Mean?

The meaning of imply, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “to express indirectly” or “to involve or indicate by inference, association, or necessary consequence rather than by direct statement.”

In other words, when someone implies something, they indicate something without directly saying it. The following examples use this word correctly:

  • She implied a threat with her snide remarks.
  • The rights we have imply obligations as well.
  • The news report implied fraud on the part of the CEO.

Synonyms for Imply

Infer vs imply
When someone implies something, they indicate something without directly saying it

Similar words to the word imply include:

  • Hint
  • Indicate
  • Insinuate
  • Allude
  • Suggest

Etymology of Imply

Imply comes from two words, the Middle English word emplien and the Anglo-French word emplier. These words mean to entangle or to involve, but over time the meaning of imply evolved. It was first used in the 14th century.

Use Synonyms to Keep the Words Straight

if you are struggling to keep imply and infer straight, consider using synonyms as substitutes. The word suggest is a good synonym for imply, and the word conclude is a good synonym for infer. 

If you can use suggest without changing the meaning of the sentence, then the correct word is imply. For example:

  • What are you implying with that remark?

Can also read

  • What are you suggesting with that remark?

Similarly, if you can use conclude, then the correct word is infer. For example:

  • What can I infer from your tired expression?

Can also read:

  • What can I conclude from your tired expression?

A Final Word on Infer vs Imply

Infer and imply are both verbs with similar, yet distinct, meanings in American English. The first, infer, means to guess at something using logic and information you already have. Imply means to hint at something or suggest something.

Remember, easily confused words can mean the difference between a skilled writer and a mediocre one. Take the time to get them straight to improve your writing skills.

FAQs on Infer vs Imply

What is the difference between infer and imply?

Infer is a verb that means to conclude or to guess. Imply is a verb that means to suggest or hint at something.

When to use infer or imply?

If you are talking about someone making a hint about something, then you will use imply. If you are talking about drawing a conclusion or making an educated guess, you would use infer.

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Author

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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