Make Your Editor Cry: Imply vs. Infer

Make Your Editor Cry: Imply vs. Infer

To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. To infer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies.

Both verbs have to do with the communication of information. But imply and infer are opposites.

Think of it this way. The verbs throw and catch could both have to do with a baseball, but they mean opposite things you do with the ball. The implier is the pitcher; the inferrer is the catcher.

To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess. The speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring. As a general rule, the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.

Try this. If you hand your friend a breath mint, you imply that your friend needs one. Your friend can infer that he has bad breath when you hand it to him.

Since they have no mind, things can imply but not infer. A chimney on the outside of a house implies that there is a fireplace inside. The house cannot infer it. It takes a conscious mind to infer.

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