Infer and Imply

by Tina Blue

The best way to remember the difference between these two words is to think in terms of the model used by communications theorists.
Communication consists of a
message, a sender, and a receiver.
The
sender can imply, but the receiver can only infer.
The error that usually occurs is that the word
infer is mistakenly used for imply. 

WRONG:  Are you inferring that I am a fool?
RIGHT:   Are you implying that I am a fool?

If someone gets the idea from your behavior that you are a fool, then he is inferring  that you are a fool. But if he is subtly letting you know that he thinks so, then he is implying that you are a fool. You, of course, can infer from his implication that he thinks you are a fool.
IMPLY = to put the suggestion into the message (sender implies)
INFER = to take the suggestion out of the message (receiver infers) 

IMPLICATION = what the sender has implied
INFERENCE = what the receiver has inferred

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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