What does it mean to 'infer' or 'imply'?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

The Inference Question on the TOEFL reads:

Based on the passage, which of the following can be inferred?


The Inference Question on the TOEFL might also read:

What does the author imply?


What does it mean to infer? What does it mean to imply?





Infer= to deduce or to draw a conclusion based on the information that is given. A correct TOEFL inference answer choice will be the statement that is most probably true based on the information that the reading passage provides.


The Reading Passage Says:

Unlike her typical response, she enthusiastically leapt out of bed before her alarm clock went off.


Based on the reading, we can infer that the woman usually does not get out of bed before her alarm clock. We can infer that she typically wakes up after her alarm clock goes off and that she is not enthusiastic about it.


Imply= to suggest or hint at. Instead of stating something directly, it is stated indirectly.


Based on the reading, the author implies that the woman usually does not get out of bed before her alarm clock. The author implies that she typically wakes up after her alarm clock goes off and that she is not enthusiastic about it.


Notice the difference between infer and imply is WHO is doing WHAT.


In a TOEFL Reading, the author implies.

We infer.


This infer/imply relationship is similar to the relationship between the words borrow and lend.


The bank lends money to me.

I borrow money from the bank.


If you suggest something, you imply.

If you try to figure out what someone else suggests, you infer.


For a deeper look at the Inference question and to understand how to get this question right, check out the TOEFL Land Inference course.


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