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Did I infer or imply?

Posted by Wendy Wood on 8th September , 2020 in Grammar
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The use of infer as a synonym for imply is becoming more common, but it’s not considered standard and will probably draw criticism. There’s a little trick that makes it easier to remember their uses. Their definitions are the key to this trick.

imply: verb.

  1. to indicate or suggest, as something naturally to be inferred, without stating explicitly.
  2. to involve as a necessary circumstance.
  3. (of words) to signify or mean.

infer: verb.  

  1. to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence.
  2. (of facts, circumstances, statements, etc.) to indicate or involve as a conclusion; imply.
  3. to imply or hint.

You can see their definitions are closely related and each contains the other word. The trick to remember is that imply is to give a hint and infer is to take a hint. The differences can be seen in these sentences:

My request for a raise should not imply that I am unhappy.
I infer from my manager’s praise that I deserve a raise.

The easiest way to remember the distinction between these two is that one person may imply what another person infers.

Wendy Wood


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