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Both the words imply and infer suggest that a communication took place, but that there was additional meaning beyond what was directly spoken, written, or gestured. What is the difference?

I beleive that the answer is the sender of the communication (i.e. speaker, author) implies this meaning, while the recipient (i.e. listener, reader) infers it. Is this correct?

i.e.: While my question seems to imply only the need for a yes or no answer, you are free to infer that additional background is welcome.

EDIT: While this question has been asked, answered, accepted, and closed for some amount of time, it continues to receive down votes. It was my first question here at English SE, and I admit I made a rookie mistake; but if you look at my contributions since, they are much improved. So, in an effort to protect my meager reputation here, allow me to try to further illuminate what I was looking for here.

I already knew the standard dictionary definitions of imply and infer. As was mentioned in the comments, I was asking more about the subtleties and shades of meaning. Consider this example:

Alice: Roger makes a lot of mistakes. Bob: Are you trying to infer that Roger is stupid? Alice: No, did you imply that I do think so?

Most of us understand what happened in this conversation. Yet it seems that Alice and Bob have used the two words incorrectly, and it seems a little awkward to read this.

Why is this so?

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This answer suggests that this is, indeed, general reference. english.stackexchange.com/questions/44833/… –  Jim Oct 11 '11 at 18:56
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Not to make an argument, but I don't think questions like this can necessarily be answered by simply looking in the dictionary. The poster is asking about connotations and subtleties of meaning, which are not always clear from dictionary definitions. –  Jay Oct 25 '11 at 19:09
    
Thanks for the nod, @Jay. Indeed, that was my intent, though I can see how the question may not have been viewed as such by all readers. I'll know better next time. –  cobaltduck Oct 26 '11 at 15:03
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Actually it's more complicated, as Language Log explains: The truth about infer. –  RegDwigнt Jun 13 '13 at 10:48
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closed as general reference by Hugo, waiwai933 Oct 11 '11 at 19:03

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

3 Answers

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Yes, you have inferred correctly. :-)

Well, I think there's a little more difference than that. "Imply" is normally understood to mean that it was the speaker's (or writer's or whomever's) intention to convey additional information indirectly, or that such additional information is inherent in the nature of the universe.

"Infer" means to conclude or deduce from available evidence. It could be the "recipient" side of something implied, but you could also infer something that the speaker did not know or intend to tell you at all.

Like, "Al said that the book used a style very different from anything that we knew Bob really wrote, implying that Bob didn't write it at all." The speaker intends to say that Bob didn't write it without actually saying so.

Versus, "Bob claimed that he wrote this book, but from the style I inferred that he didn't really write it at all." Bob intends to say that he wrote it; I must infer that he did not.

Perhaps I should clarify that "infer" has different connotations from "deduce". "Infer" normally conveys more a sense of inevitability. A detective might deduce that the suspect comitted the crime based on the available evidence; you wouldn't normally say that he inferred it.

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Yes.

This is a correct assumption. (Implicit in my use of the indefinite article is the possibility of other correct relations. If this is an LSAT, GMAT or other AT question, I would read the question very carefully as there might be another, better answer.)

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No, not a test question. I only used the x:y::a:b analogy symbols for brevity. –  cobaltduck Oct 11 '11 at 15:36
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Dictionary definitions:

imply: to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated: His words implied a lack of faith.

infer: to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence: They inferred his displeasure from his cool tone of voice.

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