Implication and inference

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Implication and inference are two related words which are opposites.

To imply is to suggest something is true without actually saying it. Examples:

  1. Your former wife: suggests you did have a wife to whom you are no longer married.
  2. Have you stopped beating your wife? suggests not only that you have a wife, but that you have been in the habit of beating her.

To infer is to see the implication in the sentence. When you realise the meaning of the second sentence, and protest "I have never beaten her", you have made an inference.

Here are the rules:

  • The person who makes the suggestion implies it.
  • The person who recognises the suggestion infers it (or draws an inference).
  • Inference always comes after an implication: I imply, then you infer.

An implication is always verbal, but inferring is not always verbal. A non-verbal response might show the indirect message (implication) had been accurately interpreted (inferred) by the receiver. Example: I hate you! may contain unspoken implications, according to circumstance and tone of voice. Between two lovers it might mean:

  1. Bitter feelings after a quarrel. This is the literal meaning and not an implication.
  2. A statement of love. Response might be "I love you, too" (verbal) or to blow a kiss (non-verbal).

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