Imply vs. Infer—What’s the Difference?

  • Imply means to suggest or to say something in an indirect way.
  • Infer means to suppose or come to a conclusion, especially based on an indirect suggestion.

Implying and inferring are both common elements of communication. One means to state something, and the other to conclude something. But it’s surprisingly easy to confuse these two verbs.

What Does Imply Mean?

When we imply something, we’re hinting at what we mean but not saying it directly:

I didn’t mean to imply that your grasp on grammar is bad.

He didn’t make any promises, but he did imply that he’d be back for the holidays.

Imply vs. Infer—What's the Difference image

What Does Infer Mean?

When you come to a conclusion based on something you think someone implied, you’re inferring:

Am I right to infer that you think my grammar is bad?

We inferred that he’d be back before the holidays because he didn’t leave with enough luggage for a long trip.

Examples

Even at face value, well-intentioned repairs surely imply why repairs were necessary.

But the inclusion of the term “migration” was not meant to imply a general federal power to restrict migration, but was a euphemism intended to bolster the pretense that the Constitution did not endorse slavery.

Current technology uses radars on satellites to infer wind speeds, and both sending and receiving these signals is a more costly process.

You can probably infer from its R18 rating that Verhoeven doesn’t shy away from the sexual violence aspects of the narrative, and the film’s repeated flashbacks to the assault seem a little gratuitous.

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