• 2-minute read
  • 5th August 2014

Word Choice: Infer vs. Imply

Deciding whether to use ‘infer’ or ‘imply’ in your writing can be tricky, as the words may seem similar at a glance.

The correct term to use in any given situation depends upon whether you are describing someone as speaking or listening. For example, if one person implies something, the other can infer something from what has been said. Confused? Read on.


To ‘imply’ something is to suggest it without explicitly stating what one means. For example:

His words implied a lack of knowledge about the subject.

‘Imply’ can also be used in relation to trends or events which suggest a logical result or conclusion, as in:

The tremors imply that an earthquake is imminent.

It is sometimes used synonymously with ‘necessitates’ or ‘requires’, as in the sentence:

A holiday to Australia implies air travel.


To infer something is to reach a reasoned conclusion based on evidence (rather than basing it on something that has been stated explicitly).

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If, for example, someone of retirement age talks about their travel plans and how bored they are at work, one might infer that they intend to retire soon.

What is inferred may not, in fact, be the truth; it is only ever a reasoned guess made after examining the evidence.

Knowing the Difference

Whether you ‘imply’ or ‘infer’ something depends upon your point of view. If you are the speaker, you are implying. If you are the listener, you are inferring.

The most common error made in relation to these verbs is using ‘infer’ when ‘imply’ would be correct. For example, take a look at these two sentences:

Hardy’s writing implies that society constrained freedom. – Correct

Hardy’s writing infers that society constrained freedom. – Incorrect

Only the first is correct. As a reader of Hardy’s works, on the other hand, one might infer from his writing that he was critical of Victorian society.

If you would like more guidance on matters related to writing, the professionals at Proofread My Essay can help you with your essays.

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