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Many people confuse the words imply and infer. They often think that the two words mean the same thing, but this isn’t true. Imply and infer are not synonyms; they are actually the opposite of each other. To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess based on the information you’ve been given.
This article will help you understand when to use imply or infer so you never get them confused again.
What Does Imply Mean?
Imply is a transitive verb that means to express something indirectly, hint at, suggest, or indicate by association. The thing that’s being suggested is often negative or defamatory.
The speaker does the implying by suggesting or hinting at something indirectly.
- I see that he’s wearing a tuxedo, so I guess they’re going somewhere special tonight.
Here, we are implying that we know they’re going somewhere fancy because he is dressed up for it. We aren’t actually sure if they will go somewhere fancy or not—just guessing based on his clothes.
- I know you love all of your children, but there is something special about Mary that makes you go out of your way to spend time with her.
In this example, we are implying that the person sees something special about Mary because they make a point to spend time with her more often.
Examples of Imply in a Sentence
- He implied his opponent was dishonest by hinting that he had cheated.
- By yawning, the contestant implied that he was bored by the questions.
- She didn’t make any promises, but she did imply that there would be cake.
What Does Infer Mean?
Infer is a transitive verb that means to draw a conclusion from something you know or understand about the subject of a statement—to come to a conclusion through analysis or reasoning.
The listener does the inferring by drawing conclusions based on the information they’ve been given.
- It must have been a good party! The music was thumping all night, the drinks were flowing, and the cops were called at 2 a.m.!
We can infer that the party was a good one (for those attending, maybe not for the neighbors!) based on the evidence presented: music playing, drinks flowing, cops called.
Examples of Infer in a Sentence
- Can I infer from your demeanor that you are no longer angry?
- Can we infer from his words that he was a liar?
- Based on the fact that the ingredients have been set out, I infer there will be cake after dinner.
If you’re still not sure of the difference between imply and infer, then remember this: what is implied is suggested, but what is inferred is concluded.
What’s the Difference between Imply and Insinuate?
Imply and insinuate are synonyms that both mean to suggest something in an indirect way. Both words often have a negative connotation.
- You’re so lucky you drive a Chevrolet. I park my Lamborghini in the garage so it won’t get scratched.
This person is insinuating that his car is better and worth more than the Chevrolet.
They are not always interchangeable though because insinuate can also mean to introduce someone (often oneself) in a stealthy or artful way.
Other synonyms of imply are intimate, hint at, and suggest.
Examples of Insinuate in a Sentence
- The teacher insinuated that Peter was not doing his homework.
- Kevin insinuated himself into the conversation (without being invited to do so).
- After the man insinuated himself into my apartment, I realized he had been planning to rob me all along.
Imply vs. Infer Quiz
Choose the best word to complete each sentence. The answers are at the bottom of this blog post.
- The witness implied/inferred that the perpetrator looked to be very strong because he said that the perpetrator was able to kick in the steel door of the bank without breaking a sweat.
- From your huge smile, I’m implying/inferring that you’re happy with the decision.
- David implied/inferred to us that he wanted to remain as a silent partner.
- It is not my intention to imply/infer that the company has done anything wrong.
- His implication/inference was that the employee should also receive a bonus because of his hard work over the past year.
Final Thoughts on Imply vs. Infer
A good way to remember the difference between imply and infer is by contrasting their definitions. If you’re stating something indirectly, then you are implying it. On the other hand, if you are drawing a conclusion from evidence, then you are inferring it.
More Grammar Posts
- Censer vs. Censor vs. Censure vs. Sensor
- Appraise vs. Apprise
- Biannual vs. Biennial
- Discreet vs. Discrete
- Vain vs. Vein vs. Vane
Imply vs. Infer Quiz Answers
- The witnesses implied that the perpetrator looked to be very strong because he said that the perpetrator was able to kick in the steel door of the bank without breaking a sweat.
- From your huge smile, I’m inferring that you’re happy with the decision.
- David implied to us that he wanted to remain as a silent partner.
- It is not my intention to imply that the company has done anything wrong.
- His inference was that the employee should also receive a bonus because of his hard work over the past year.