Posted by: Jack Henry | May 4, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Imply vs. Infer

Hey, Editrix!

Have y’all ever done "implied" versus "inferred?" I heard these used incorrectly this morning and it makes me crazy…


Hello, Mr. Texas!

Surprisingly, I don’t think we have covered this before. I would love to make your world a little less crazy, or at least try to.

There’s a lot of information out there about the two verbs imply and infer. Let’s start with simple definitions from

  • Imply means to suggest or to say something in an indirect way.
  • Infer means to suppose or come to a conclusion, especially based on an indirect suggestion.

Yet people do get them confused, so let’s look at a few examples. Remember imply means suggest; infer means conclude.

  • Victor said that he didn’t mean to imply that my outfit was inappropriate for the hockey game when he asked, “Are you really gonna wear pink ruffles and roller skates tonight?”
  • I inferred by the look on Victor’s face and his attitude that I should change into something warmer and more subdued, and trade in my skates for tennis shoes if I went to the hockey game.
  • When Tyler told Stella that they would never be more than friends, Stella cried, “All the gifts, flowers, and kissing implied otherwise!”
  • When Tyler told Stella that they were just friends, she told him that she inferred they had a more intimate relationship after all the gifts and kisses he showered her with.
  • The advertisement for “Festival of Fun”—complete with images of animals, cotton candy, games, and a Ferris wheel—implied there would be something all of us to enjoy. When we arrived, all they had was an old cow and a dartboard.
  • When we arrived to the “Festival of Fun” and the fairground contained only an old cow and a dart board, we inferred that we had been taken advantage of by the ticket sellers.

Does that make a little more sense? One website compared the two words to give and take. said “the speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring. Similarly, you could say that the writer does the implying and that the reader does the inferring. One last comparison, from provides this “Like baseball? Theodore Bernstein, in his classic The Careful Writer, gives us a way to keep imply and infer straight: "The implier is the pitcher; the inferrer is the catcher."

Hopefully some of these examples help!

And in honor of you, Mr. Texas:

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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