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Commonly Confused Words: Infer vs. Imply


What does each word mean?

The verb infer refers to the act of correctly guessing or deducing something.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is infer used in some example sentences:

  • She inferred from her friend’s tone that he wasn’t having fun.
  • While it might be tempting infer from tabloid stories that crime is on the rise, it would be better to look at the statistics on the subject before jumping to any conclusions.

Imply refers to the act of suggesting or expressing something indirectly and inviting someone to deduce what you mean.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is imply used in an example sentence:

  • Her friend’s tone implied that he wasn’t having a good time.
  • While the tabloid stories might imply that crime is on the rise, it’s important to look at the statistics before jumping to any conclusions.

Where does each word come from?

Infer dates back to the 1520s and derives from the Latin ‘inferre’.

Imply comes from the Old French ‘emplier’ which in turn comes from the Latin ‘implicare’ meaning ‘involve, enfold, entangle’. The word has been used in English since the late fourteenth century.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between infer and imply?

Imply has the word I’m in it. Say the following sentence to yourself:

  • When I imply, I’m speaking.

Infer and information both begin with the word in. Try saying the following sentence to yourself:

  • When I infer something, I’m taking in information and using it to make deductions.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.


25 Sep 2018
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