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Commonly Confused Words: Imply/Infer

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.