Should I Imply, or Should I Infer?

This is a grammar error I hear even on television, which, as we all know, is the medium that we all look up to for its high grammar standards.

I’ve heard people say What are you inferring when what they meant was What are you implying; however, I can’t say that I’ve actually ever heard anyone say What are you implying when he or she meant What are you inferring. Imply and infer are worlds apart; one is done by the speaker, and the other is done by the listener.

Imply is to implicate or suggest something without expressing it plainly or directly, which is something done by the speaker. Infer is to interpret or conclude or deduce from the evidence that is presented, which is something done by the listener.

Are you implying (suggesting) that you don’t like your dinner just because it’s burned beyond recognition?

If that’s what you infer (conclude) just because I asked whether you cooked it in the fireplace, then maybe you’re too sensitive.

(Hmmmm, that sounds similar to a conversation we recently had at our house.)

When the company president said that he was going through tough financial times, we inferred that that meant there would be no raises this year.

The company president was implying that there would be no raises this year when he showed us the graph of declining profits.

 (How many times have they tried to get you with that one?)

Sherry

Sherry’s Grammar List and Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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