Imply Vs. Infer

Imply and infer both refer to unspoken communication. The sender of this unspoken message is the one who implies, while the receiver is the one who infers.

  • To imply is to subtly hint at a hidden message that isn’t part of the actual words spoken or written. For example, you can imply that you like someone by sending them flowers.
  • To infer is to read into a message to understand the deeper meaning. You can make an assumption based on actions or the way things were said/written. So, if someone sends you flowers, it would be safe to infer that they like you.

Here’s another example. Let’s say Jane is getting ready to go out, and when she comes out of her room, her roommate, Lily, says, “Are you really wearing that?” This is technically a yesor-no question. But, in this case, Lily is implying that she doesn’t like Jane’s outfit. Jane could infer, based on Lily’s tone and the use of the word really, that she doesn’t like the outfit very much.

If Lily had just said “I don’t like your outfit. You should change,” she wouldn’t be implying anything. She’d just be bluntly saying what she thought. Then, there would be no need to infer that Lily is pretty critical . . . anyone looking for a new roomate?