Writing for Business

Mar 22 2010   1:43PM GMT

Imply vs. infer

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
When the senator announced there would be no new business taxes, she ________ that there would be new taxes in other areas.
a. implied
b. inferred

Answer: a.

To imply is to suggest something without coming right out and saying it; to infer is to draw a conclusion from something that’s only suggested rather than said outright.

So if you heard the senator announce “No new business taxes” and grumbled “I wonder where they’ll gouge us instead” you’re inferring that she’s implying that they’ll just add new taxes somewhere else to make up what they could have made by adding a new business tax.

Here’s how Tina Blue explains imply vs. infer on GrammarTips:

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

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

INFER = to take the suggestion out of the message (receiver infers)

IMPLICATION = what the sender has implied

INFERENCE = what the receiver has inferred

Follow us on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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