I have recently been told that a speaker implies and a listener infers. My friend Don can imply that I am a no-good louse when he speaks, or I can infer that Don is saying I am a no-good louse.
But I cannot say to Don "what are you inferring?" The listener is the inferrer, not the speaker.
Is this correct?
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But I cannot say to Don "what are you inferring?"

Sure you can. But it is indeed an old favorite of the linguistic pedant to point out that using "infer" in the sense of "imply" is incorrect.
I believe a better choice in this particular context is the word "insinuate": "What are you trying to insinuate"?
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But I cannot say to Don "what are you inferring?"

Sure you can. But it is indeed an old favorite of the linguistic pedant to point out that using "infer" in the sense of "imply" is incorrect.

That's an old favourite of those who think there's something clever about encouraging weak use of language.
Matt, you were right. And it may be quite useful to be suspicious of any utterance which applies the word "pedant".
Mike.
I have recently been told that a speaker implies and a listener infers. My friend Don can imply that I ... I cannot say to Don "what are you inferring?" The listener is the inferrer, not the speaker. Is this correct?

Yes, it is correct.
Mind you, it's such a common error that I suspect it goes unnoticed by many speakers especially since context usually makes it clear as to who is doing the implying/inferring.

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 22 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van)
Matt, you were right.

What on earth is wrong with saying to Don "what are you inferring?", if Don is in fact inferring something?
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Matt, you were right.

What on earth is wrong with saying to Don "what are you inferring?", if Don is in fact inferring something?

The example that Matt gave indicates that Don is indirectly stating his opinion of Matt - implying that Matt is a louse. It is, of course, possible that Don is basing his statement on something he has heard about Matt and is therefore inferring from that information that Matt is a louse. In that case, it would certainly be possible to ask Don what he is inferring but the query relates to his interpretation which precedes his statement about Matt.

Laura
(emulate St. George for email)
But I cannot say to Don "what are you inferring?"

Sure you can. But it is indeed an old favorite of the linguistic pedant to point out that using "infer" in the sense of "imply" is incorrect.

Pedantic or not, it's a warning I've seen many times in usage manuals and so forth. But I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen that mistake in my lifetime. Perhaps it was more common in the old days.
But I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen that mistake in my lifetime. Perhaps it was more common in the old days.

Googling for "are you inferring" gives 772 hits, and I'm pretty sure that in most cases what is meant is "are you implying".
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