I have heard the claim that a claim must be explicit by definition, but do not see any definition that supports this.

An example of how "implicit claim" is used from this Wikipedia page on Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt.

All three implicit claims have been disputed, and some of their elements disproven, by environmental groups, consumer-protection groups, and the industry self-regulatory Better Business Bureau

I would have thoughts claims can be implicit, either in the case of a point assumed for an argument without being stated directly or a point being made that leads most people to the same conclusion without stating it directly.

Essentially I had thought any claim made that is not stated directly but implied would be an implicit claim. Is this incorrect?

In English can claims be implicit, or can they only be explicit?

  • I don't think this question has anything to do with "English" per se. – Lambie Jan 30 '19 at 15:42

According to this paper, both explicit and implicit claims exist:

We argue that in selling a product or service or purchasing inputs, companies issue both explicit and implicit claims. The former refers to the contractual basis on which goods and services are sold or purchased by companies whereas the latter relates to company promises to stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, etc.) that are either too vague or too costly to specify in writing.

The paper is in the area of corporate reputation, but the concept of claims that are stated and claims that are implied holds for other subjects as well.


Thanks to John Lawler's recent contributions here on ELU, I think I can say what we're dealing with here is implicature (things non-explicitly conveyed by an utterance), and Grice's cancellability test (if anything in the implicature isn't true, the utterance is linguistically flawed).

As regards the specific word claim, the fact is that increasingly over the past half-century and more we see written instances where it's preceded by implicit or explicit, so I think it's reasonable to say that neither of those adjectives are inherently included or precluded by the word itself.

All that matters is that the audience should understand that a (potentially contestable) assertion is being made. You can't "claim that water is wet", for example, because that's not even contestable in principle. Stretching things to the limit though, there are 3380 written instances of "claim the moon is made of green cheese" in Google Books. Which are linguistically valid, imho, since at least the claim can be contested.


There is a difference between an implicit claim and an assumption. An assumption is an unstated point that must be true for an argument or chain of reasoning to work. One makes an assumption. An implicit claim is something that is claimed within a claim. The person doesn't assume the implicit claim is true, he implicitly claims it is true.

For example: "Despite his low popularity, Newt Gingritch may yet take the Republican nomination." Here there is an implicit claim that Newt Gingritch has low popularity. We are in fact claiming it, but we're doing it in an indirect way that tries to disguise the fact that we're claiming it.

The way language works, stating a proposition is vouching for it. If I said, "Your wife is cheating on you", no rational person would respond, "Oh, you've just stated a logical proposition that may or may not be true". It's understood that the person is claiming that the proposition is true by stating it in that way. It's an explicit claim.

A claim can be implied by stating the proposition in a way that doesn't vouch for its truth. One common way to do this is to make a claim that cannot be true (or wouldn't be sensible to claim) unless some other proposition is true. That proposition is implicitly claimed.

In the specific case of advertising, the term "implicit claim" is used to mean a claim that a reasonable person might conclude from a slogan or claim. For example, if I sell my product with a jingle that includes the line, "kills the germs that cause bad breath", a reasonable person might infer that my product reduces bad breath. In fact this isn't claimed at all and this use is different from the way the term is used in philosophical debate and other fields. This is really something that isn't claimed at all.

  • So then a claim is not explicit by definition? – Sonny Ordell Jan 28 '12 at 4:37
  • Is this example of a claim or speculation? Also even assuming it is example of an implicit claim, "Newt Gingritch taking the Republican nomination." does not imply "He had low popularity". Something is not right with logic. – jimjim Jan 28 '12 at 4:49
  • 1
    It's a claim. It may be speculation, it may be based on solid facts. We don't know. But it's a claim. Someone who says "Despite his low popularity, Newt Gingritch may yet take the Republican nomination." is claiming (implicitly) that Newt Gingritch has low popularity. There is a sense in which a claim is explicit by definition, but there is also a sense in which a claim can be implicit. – David Schwartz Jan 28 '12 at 5:37
  • The example you give is an explicit claim. He state's clearly that Newt Gingerich has low popularity. – DJClayworth Jan 30 '19 at 3:58
  • @DJClayworth He states it inside another claim as a precondition for that claim. That's how you make an implicit claim. Yes, you do claim it, otherwise it wouldn't be a claim at all. But you do it by assuming it's true rather than stating that it's true directly. When you say, "Because X, Y", you are directly claiming Y and implicitly claiming X. You use X in a way you would not use it unless it was true, thereby implicitly claiming it's true. – David Schwartz Jan 30 '19 at 5:33

There is no need for a definition, a claim is intrinsically explicit, other wise how could it be a claim?

On the other hand in law, one could claim a house as belonging to him, but the contents are not implicitly assumed to be his.

  • 1
    I'm asking about implicit claims. A claim assumed but not directly stated as the basis for an argument, or something strongly implied without being stated to the point the majority hold the same interpretation. I see the use implicit claim every now and then such as on this wiki page : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt but am unsure if it is correct usage. – Sonny Ordell Jan 28 '12 at 3:58
  • Strange indeed, "Implicit assumption" would have made sense but "implicit claim"? Maybe a claim such as "Product X and all the related art work" has the implicit claim that a picture used in a related commercial developed by a 3rd party also should be considered as part of X product. But that is legaleese not English. – jimjim Jan 28 '12 at 4:20
  • 1
    I would think the difference between an implicit assumption and an implicit claim is that an implicit assumption is not what people will take as a conclusion, while with an implicit claim it will be? – Sonny Ordell Jan 28 '12 at 4:24
  • 1
    @Arjang: if you look at some of the other answers, you will see that your understanding of the implications of the word "claim" is not the same as some other people's. That suggests that your answer is not objectively accurate. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '19 at 14:15

An implicit claim is one that is implied by other statements or claims.

For example, if you have been found guilty of a federal crime in the US and I say "I can get you pardoned for that " then I am implicitly claiming to have influence with the US President. I haven't actually stated it, but since the President is the only one who can grant such a pardon, anyone can reasonably deduce I mean it. I could later say "I never explicitly claimed I had influence with the President", and that would be true, but I made the implicit claim.

To look at the page in the question, it centres round the Clorox GreenWorks slogan: "Finally, Green Works!". The implicit claim there is that other 'green' products before this did not work. It's a claim made without explicitly stating it.

Claims can definitely be implicit according to both logic and the English language.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.