Today I’d like to give a little refresher course on two sets of similar words that can be a little tricky. Here we go:
Imply vs. Infer
To imply means to suggest or indicate something without actually saying so:
To infer means to conclude based on evidence:
I find that a good way to remember the difference between the two is that imply (has an M) comes before infer (has an N), just like M comes before N. You need an implication before you can have an inference.
Note: Some informal schools of thought say that infer can also be used to mean “imply or hint.” However, to quote Webster’s Dictionary, this usage “is found in print chiefly in letters to the editor and other informal prose, not in serious intellectual writing.”
Refer vs. Recommend
To refer (used with an object) means to direct someone (to something):
To recommend means to mention favorably:
If you’re still having trouble with these two, here’s a handy trick: In a letter of recommendation, you’re being praised. In a doctor’s referral, you’re being directed somewhere.
If you want people to recommend your books or refer their friends to your work, you will infer from this post that correct word usage is important!
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