infer


infer
infer, imply
1. The only point noted by Fowler (1926) was that the inflected forms of infer are inferred and inferring, and this is thankfully still true (but note inferable or inferrable, with one r or two, and inference with only one r). Fowler made no comment on the meaning of infer, and it was left to Gowers (1965) to add a short note to the effect that ‘the use of infer for imply is sadly common —so common that some dictionaries give imply as one of the definitions of infer without comment’. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (2006) warns against this meaning and distinguishes the primary meanings of the two words: (infer) ‘to deduce or conclude from facts or reasoning’, (imply) ‘to suggest the truth or existence of (something not expressly asserted), to insinuate or hint’. The problem lies in the fact that deduction and suggestion can often be seen as part of the same process. It is nearly always infer that encroaches on imply (but see paragraph 3 below for clarification of ‘nearly’), and the OED puts the issue in its historical context by giving examples dating from the 16c onwards.
2. The following examples show in four groups the correct meanings of both words and then the disputed or unclear usage of infer: (imply correctly used)

• Vast stretches of abandoned concrete underfoot imply that someone once had plans for this land —New Yorker, 1986

• It is a shocking departure from the procedures of good governance apparently designed to skirt Cabinet approval and the oversight that implies —Daily Mail, 2007

• (infer correctly used) One might infer, from Judy's appearance, that her business rather lay with the thorns than the flowers —Dickens, 1853

• You would have been able to infer from the room alone the nature of those who lived in it —D. M. Davin, 1979

• No reference to any living person is intended or should be inferred —Saul Bellow, 1987

• One of the things I inferred from the article was that the author felt that de Beauvoir was somehow living the open relationship because it was what Sartre wanted —weblog, AmE 2005 [OEC]

• (infer used for imply) I can't stand fellas who infer things about good clean-living Australian sheilas —Private Eye, 1970

• These were the ones who had made a slightly sulky entrance (inferring rebellion), and had then proceeded to sit on the floor —M. Bracewell, 1989

• (infer ambiguously used) Many good reasons exist in favor of private executions, without inferring or saying ‘governments are ashamed of the death penalty’ —B. R. Hall, AmE 1846

• She was ‘flabbergasted’ when complaints were made that she had taken financial advantage of him by inferring they had an ‘exclusive relationship’ —Express, 2004.

3. The only domain in which imply is used where infer might be expected is in legal language, in which the inference and the conclusion are regarded as part of the same process, as the following extract shows: When a possessory interest in property is conveyed, a court may imply from the circumstances that the parties also intended to grant or reserve an easement as well despite their failure to say so in the deed. Otherwise, it is infer that has broken the bounds of logic and is on the loose in the arena of idiom.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Infer — In*fer , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Inferred}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Inferring}.] [L. inferre to bring into, bring forward, occasion, infer; pref. in in + ferre to carry, bring: cf. F. inf[ e]rer. See 1 st {Bear}.] [1913 Webster] 1. To bring on; to induce;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • infer — in·fer /in fər/ vb in·ferred, in·fer·ring vt: to derive as a conclusion from facts or premises could infer acceptance of the offer from the offeree s response vi: to draw inferences in·fer·able also in·fer·ri·ble /in fər ə bəl/ adj …   Law dictionary

  • infer — [in fʉr′] vt. inferred, inferring [L inferre, to bring or carry in, infer < in , in + ferre, to carry, BEAR1] 1. Obs. to bring on or about; cause; induce 2. to conclude or decide from something known or assumed; derive by reasoning; draw as a… …   English World dictionary

  • infer — infer, deduce, conclude, judge, gather are comparable when they mean to arrive at by reasoning from evidence or from premises. All except gather are so clearly differentiated in logical use that these distinctions tend to be retained in general… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • infer — (v.) 1520s, from L. inferre bring into, carry in; deduce, infer, conclude, draw an inference; bring against, from in in (see IN (Cf. in ) (2)) + ferre carry, bear, from PIE *bher (1) to bear, to carry, to take (Cf. Skt. bharati carries; Avestan… …   Etymology dictionary

  • infer — ► VERB (inferred, inferring) ▪ deduce from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements. DERIVATIVES inferable (also inferrable) adjective. USAGE On the use of imply and infer, see the note at …   English terms dictionary

  • infer — adj. inv. (despre ovar) situat dedesubtul punctelor de inserţie ale sepalelor, petalelor sau staminelor. (< fr. infère, lat. inferus) Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • infer — ìnfer m DEFINICIJA reg. željezna rešetka na prozoru ETIMOLOGIJA tal. inferriata …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • infer — [v] conclude arrive at, ascertain, assume, believe, collect, conjecture, construe, deduce, derive, draw, draw inference, figure, figure out, gather, glean, guess, induce, interpret, intuit, judge, presume, presuppose, reach conclusion, read… …   New thesaurus

  • infer — verb (inferred; inferring) Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French inferer, from Latin inferre, literally, to carry or bring into, from in + ferre to carry more at bear Date: 1528 transitive verb 1. to derive as a conclusion from facts… …   New Collegiate Dictionary