Commonly Confused Words: Imply/Infer

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Can a holding imply the court’s unwillingness to consider an issue, or does it infer such an unwillingness?

Imply (verb):

  • Imply is a verb that means “to suggest or convey a meaning indirectly”: “The expert’s findings implied that the discrimination was invidious.”

Infer (verb):

  • Infer is a verb that means “to draw a conclusion based on evidence or reasoning”: “Based on the corporation’s actions, one can infer that there was invidious discrimination.”
  • Note: When a sentence describes a subject’s deduction FROM some other source, then you need infer.

Rule—Imply or Infer: The recipient of information draws inferences (“From the tone of the opinion, I inferred that the Court was skeptical”); objects like studies or reports imply something (“The study implied that there had been foul play.”) Put another way: YOU infer, THEY imply.

And now that we’ve reached the end of this lesson, I hope you can infer what’s next: practice problems!


1 / 4

1. Which sentences use the underlined phrase correctly?

I. The defense attorney’s lack of surprise seemed to infer a knowledge of the evidence beforehand.

II. The discrepancy in the financial reports implies a potential mismanagement of funds.

III. The court inferred the law’s intent from the specific language used in the statute.

2 / 4

2. Which sentences use the underlined phrase correctly?

 I. The judge’s final remarks implied a ruling in favor of the plaintiff.

II. From the contradicting testimonies, the jury inferred that the truth was being obscured.

III. The plaintiff’s reluctance to answer directly seemed to infer a lack of honesty.

3 / 4

3. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? The speaker’s remarks, though candid, and no doubt well-intentioned, inferred that those who disagreed with her were not just misguided but downright foolish.

4 / 4

4. In the next sentence, which of the underlined words or phrases, if any, has an error? Ever since Princess Diana died in a Paris hospital on August 31, 1997, various media outlets have insisted, or at least inferred, that the car crash that led to her death resulted from more than just driver error.

Your score is

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