Difference Between Imply and Infer

Imply and Infer are two separate terms in English that indicate information transmission.


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Key Takeaways

  1. To imply is to suggest or indicate something indirectly through words, actions, or statements.
  2. To infer is to deduce or draw a conclusion based on available information, even if not explicitly stated.
  3. Communication involves implying and inferring, with the sender implying a message and the receiver interpreting or inferring its meaning.

Imply vs Infer

The difference between Infer and Imply is that Infer is concerned with receiving the information implicit in a statement or a gesture. Imply is concerned with indirectly conveying something through a word or a gesture. It is the speaker who does the task of implying. While inferring is the task of the listener.

Imply vs Infer

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The meaning of ‘Imply’ is to refer to something implicitly rather than explicitly. It is also used to describe something as the logical outcome of a particular fact or an event. For example:

  1. She didn’t imply anything wrong when she said that.
  2. The forecast of the cyclone indicated the destruction of lives and properties.

‘Infer’, on the other hand, means to conclude something from the provided information and evidence rather than from direct and clear-cut statements. To infer something, one needs to read between the lines.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonImplyInfer
MeaningIt means to indicate something implicitly.It means to deduce something implicit.
Type of VerbTransitiveTransitive as well as Intransitive.
ActorsSpeakers or Writers or Performer of any action.Sensitive Listeners or Readers or Observers of actions.
Related toBoth non-living and living things.Subjects with consciousness, that is to say, are only human beings.
SynonymsIndicate, Signify, SignalDeduce, Conclude, Surmise


What is meant by Imply?

It means to express a statement or a truth indirectly. It also refers to something as the logical result of a particular statement of fact.

In sentence construction, it is mainly used as a verb, and the objective is to convey something.

The conveyor may be a living thing or a non-living thing. For example:

Living Things:

  1. She just shrugged her shoulders to imply that she didn’t want any further discussion on the topic.
  2. He didn’t intend to imply that something is wrong with how you lead your life.

Non-living Things:

  1. Chipped stones imply that people used to come here to make tools.
  2. The presence of smoke implies that a fire has broken out somewhere.

As a transitive verb, it is used in three ways:

  1. Of a proposition: to have as an inevitable outcome. For example, the proposition that all cats are mammals indicates that my cat is also a mammal.
  2. Of a person: to argue by logical reasoning. For example, when it is stated that my cat is black, it does not mean all cats are black.
  3. Of a person or proposition: to hint at something without directly stating it. For example:
    1. X: One should be more careful with hygiene.
    2. Y: Are you implying that I am not careful?

What is meant by Infer?

It means to conclude or figure out something implicitly expressed in a given statement, information or evidence. If ‘imply’ is about conveying something, infer is concerned with grasping or understanding something.

The term originated from the Latin inferre, which means ‘to bring about or bring in’. In medieval times, it came to adopt the meaning ‘deduce’.

In sentence construction, it is used as a verb, and the objective is understanding something. For example:

  1. She inferred that he didn’t like her appearance.
  2. I inferred from his manner that he wanted to say something but couldn’t.

Infer can be used as a transitive word and an intransitive verb.

As a Transitive verb, it can be used in four ways:

  1. To derive by reasoning: We see smoke and infer fire.
  2.  To surmise: I could infer everything is good at home from my father’s letter.
  3. To recognise:  I waited all day to meet her. From this, you can infer my zeal to see her.
  4. To hint:  He did not participate in the debate except to ask questions inferring that he was not interested in the discussion.

As an Intransitive Verb, it refers to the act of concluding. e.g. the researchers have observed, reasoned and inferred to reach the following results.

Since then, its meaning ‘to indicate or hint’ has been repeatedly condemned as it blurs the distinction between ‘imply’ and ‘infer’.


Main Differences Between Imply and Infer

  1. Living as well as non-living things can ‘imply’ something. But ‘inferring’ is related to understanding, which requires consciousness and is present only in humans.
  2. Some major synonyms of ‘imply’ are ‘indicate’, ‘signify’ and ‘signal’.
  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imply
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infer
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