A Conservative Lesson on Imply vs. Infer

That guy implied…blah blah blah.

I inferred blah blah blah from what someone else said.

He/She implies something from their words etc.

I infer something from what I hear/see etc.


You tell me that “Mary is a Teabagger”.  You have implied that you do not have any respect for Mary, and I infer from your statement that you are an idiot.

It’s that simple.

Infer vs Imply

The best way to remember the difference between these two words is to think in terms of the model used by communications theorists. Communication consists of a message, a sender, and a receiver.  The sender can imply, but the receiver can only infer.  The error that usually occurs is that the word infer is mistakenly used for the word imply.

Imply = to put the suggestion into the message (Sender implies)

Infer = to take the suggestion out of the message (Receiver infers)

Implication = what the sender has implied

Inference = what the receiver has inferred

Thus . . .
Writers or speakers imply things.
Listeners or readers infer things.

In February, 2011 Governor Sarah Palin made the following statement in reference to Senator Rick Santorum:
“I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that perhaps others want to call him, I’ll let his wife call him that instead.”  Yahoo news subsequently featured an article with the following headline:

Sarah Palin implies Rick Santorum is a ‘Neanderthal’

Gov. Palin, as the speaker and sender of the message,  did indeed imply that Santorum was a Neanderthal.  The rest of us, as the receiver of this message, can infer that Gov. Palin was miffed at Sen. Santorum for something he had said (follow the link for more of the story).

On March 11, 2011 President Obama made the following statement:  “Even if we started drilling new wells tomorrow, that oil isn’t coming on line overnight.” President Obama has implied that the U.S. will not start drilling new wells any time soon. From his statement, we can infer…well, many things. Make your own list.

P.S. – My inclusion of the above image clearly implies that I would support Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate.
If you have inferred  that I am a Palin supporter, you would be correct.