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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


Imply Vs. Infer


You can hint. You can take a guess. But you can't do both at the same time. That's the basic problem with thinking that "imply" and "infer" are interchangeable. They're not.


To "imply" something is to actively suggest it without coming right out and saying so.


To "infer" something is a much more passive process. It can only take place in your mind. It's what you figure out, or "infer," from what's in front of you.


So you can make an inference from an implication, but it doesn't work the other way around.


He can imply something to you, and you infer a conclusion based on what he said, suggested, gestured or showed you. But you can't infer anything to anyone else but yourself.


Here's a little quiz:


  1. He (inferred / implied) from my blue lips and chattering teeth that I was cold.


  1. There was no mistaking the (implication / inference) of rising sales due to better ads.


  1. Are you trying to (imply / infer) that we need to do this over again?


(Did you choose the first word each time? Good! I infer that you get it!)



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 009 2006


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