Posted by: Jack Henry | February 19, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Assume and Presume

Dear Ms. Editrix,

Are the words assume and presume interchangeable? Please advise.

With hugs,


Dear G,

What an interesting question! I tried to define them in my head, but then I got a bit lost. I turned to the Internet to see if maybe someone had already dealt with the difference between the two, and I stumbled on this article from I hope it helps!



Assume and presume both mean to believe something before it happens, but when you assume you’re not really sure. If someone bangs on your door in the middle of the night, you might assume (and hope!) it’s your crazy neighbor. If your neighbor knocks on your door every night at 6:30, at 6:29 you can presume she’s coming over in a minute.

To assume is to suppose or believe something without any proof. It also means to take over, usually responsibilities and duties, such as with a job, or to take on a look or attitude:

Receiving no reply, three days later he sent a second missive, in which he assumed that his first letter had gone astray. (Elizabeth S. Kite)

"I won’t have him," said Sir Henry at once, his eyes assuming their most prawnlike expression. (Mary Cholmondeley)

Presume is from the Latin pre "before" and sumere "to take," like taking something for granted. It means to be sure of something before it happened. When you presume, you suppose something without proof, based on probability:

In her latest video, Britney Spears arrives on earth — an alien, we presume — to spread the message of consumerism. (Washington Post)

I favor the latter explanation, also known as a sensibly presumed truth, just as I believe William Shakespeare wrote a few plays in his day. (Time)

People don’t love it when you assume… because you’re basically making a guess. When you assumed it was your neighbor knocking on your door and you told her to go away, you found out later it was your mom! There’s no funny phase about presume, because you’re usually right.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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