'Imply' vs 'Infer': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on July 27, 2023

‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’: What’s the difference? These two words might appear to overlap, but in reality, their uses are very different. Knowing when each word should be used and what they truly mean will help make your writing more sophisticated and accurate. 

In a rush? Here’s a short overview of what you’ll learn:

  • ‘Imply’ is a word meaning to suggest the truth of something. 
  • ‘Infer’ is a word meaning to deduce or conclude from evidence. 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’?

Given these two words appear similar, it’s not uncommon that they get mixed up. They’re both verbs that have to deal with processing information that might appear in the same context. However, despite all this, their meanings are quite different, and knowing their true meanings could mean the difference between making and not making sense. 

So how do we tell the difference? One key tool is going to the timing of the release of information. ‘Imply’ deals with information on the spot, while ‘Infer’ deals with information after the fact. 

  • For example, with ‘Infer,’ you are using the information you’ve already been given to come to a conclusion. 

Another key tool that will help is the concreteness of information, in essence, how much do we actually know.

When something is:

  • Implied’ is not explicitly stated
  • When something is ‘inferred,’ we already have all the information and use it to put pieces together and come to a conclusion. 

While these tricks will help get you started, learning the definitions and seeing these new words in action is what’s going to help us go the distance. So, let’s take a closer look at ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer.’ 

Definition of ‘Imply’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Imply’ is a verb that means: 

  • Strongly suggest the truth or existence of something not explicitly stated
    • “Nowhere in the abstract do the researchers imply a causal link.”
  • (of a fact or occurrence) suggest (something) as a logical consequence
    • “The forecasted traffic increase implied more roads and more air pollution.”

The word ‘Imply’ comes from the Latin ‘implicare,’ which means “entwined,” which helps us see how when a message is implied, our awareness of it is entwined with the truth. In short, by making a statement that ‘implies’ something, we assume others see the connection we are suggesting. 

Synonyms for ‘Imply’

  • Suggest
  • Indicate
  • Entail
  • Hint
  • Mention
  • Signify
  • Connote
  • Insinuate

Antonyms for ‘Imply’

  • Define
  • Explicate
  • State
  • Express

Phrases with ‘Imply’

  • Implied connection
  • To imply 
  • Does not imply

Definition of ‘Infer’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Infer’ is a verb which means: 

  • Deduce or conclude (information) from evidence or reasoning
    • “It is possible to infer a trend from the figures.”

The word ‘Infer’ comes from the Latin word ‘inferre,’ which means to “bring out” or “bring about,” which makes sense when we think about how inferring information is us using the facts we’ve been given to “bring about” a conclusion. 

Synonyms of ‘Infer’

  • Conclude
  • Ascertain
  • Deduce
  • Derive
  • Interpret
  • Guess
  • Speculate
  • Surmise
  • Presume
  • Glean
  • Figure out

Antonyms of ‘Infer’

  • Abstain
  • Disbelieve
  • Neglect
  • Distribute
  • Misunderstand

Phrases with ‘Infer’

  • Logically infer
  • Infer a conclusion
  • To infer

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’

Writing and knowing definitions is only half the battle when it comes to learning new words — you have to learn how to say them properly as well. Especially with words like ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’, which can often appear in more formal contexts, it’s good to know you’re pronouncing them right in more serious conversations and presentations. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Imply’ as a guide: 

  • ‘Ihm-ply’ (with the first “i” being a short sound like in ‘rip’)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Infer’ as a guide: 

  • ‘Ihn-ferr’ (the “e” at the end, when pronounced, is really just a segue to the “r”)

How to Use ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’ in a Sentence

As mentioned above, these words often appear in a more formal or academic context. But what exactly does that look like? Seeing these words in action in sample settings where they might appear is a great way to learn the definitions and the difference between when it is proper to use these words. You can use these example sentences as a guide, then try writing out some of your own to get more practice.

‘Imply’ Example Sentences

  • Her silence in response to his questions implied that she was not ready to talk yet. 
  • He didn’t mean to, but his facial expression implied that he didn’t like the food. 
  • He put on his headphones to imply that he didn’t want to be bothered while studying. 
  • The dogs panting and barking implied that he was ready for dinner

‘Infer’ Example Sentences

  • With such weak evidence, it was difficult to infer who the main suspect was. 
  • He inferred from the parking ticket on the table that his roommate would be in a bad mood. 
  • She inferred from the unfamiliar car in the driveway that they had a visitor at the house. 
  • The police inferred that she might be guilty due to her shift attitude and lack of cooperation. 

Final Advice on ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’

Learning new words that appear similar but, in fact, are very different can be difficult at first, but as we investigate definitions and examples, things become much more clear. Remember that while context is always helpful, knowing the timing of words can also be very useful. If you know when a word would be used within the situation, it can help you put the proper word in its place. 

Want a review? Here’s a quick recap of what was covered:

  • ‘Imply’ is a verb that means to suggest the truth or evidence and is often used in the middle of distributing information.
  • Meanwhile, ‘Infer’ is a verb that means to deduce or conclude information given prior evidence, so it is therefore used after the fact. 

Mastering new words can be daunting when they are more frequently used in formal contexts, but learning words like ‘Imply’ vs ‘Infer’ can help make your writing and conversations more sophisticated. Be sure to investigate other confusing words to continue to expand your vocabulary and help build confidence in any writing situation.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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