The word “inference” is a noun that describes an intellectual process. The basic definition is:
“A conclusion drawn from two or more available facts.”
In science, there are a few different types of inferences, but in general an inference is:
“An educated guess made through observation.”
You might use these inferences to share a potential reason why something happens or how it happens.
When you are reading, you can make inferences based on information the author provides.
The literary definition of “inference” is more specifically:
“Using clues provided by the author to figure things out.”
You might not realize how often you derive conclusions from indications in your everyday life. These inferences help you make decisions about things like what you’ll say or how you’ll act in a given situation.
Sally arrives at home at 4:30 and knows that her mother does not get off of work until 5. Sally also sees that the lights are off in their house.
Sally can infer that her mother is not yet home.
Sherry's toddler is in bed upstairs. She hears a bang and crying.
Sherry can infer that her toddler is hurt or scared.
John hears a smoke alarm next door and smells burnt bacon.
John can infer that his neighbor burnt her breakfast.
Jennifer hears her mailbox close and her dog is barking.
Jennifer can infer that the postal carrier has delivered her mail.
Norman sees cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son's mouth.
Norman can infer that his son ate a cookie.
The floor is covered in shreds of newspaper, and Susan's dog has a small piece of newspaper stuck in his fur.
It can be inferred that Susan's dog ate the newspaper.
Sarah left a Payless Shoes bag on the floor and is wearing shiny red heels.
It can be inferred that Sarah went shoe shopping at Payless.
Julia works at a pet store and owns four cats, a lizard, a dog, and a rabbit.
It can be inferred that Julia is a pet lover.
John's house smells of soy sauce, and used chopsticks are on the table.
It can be inferred that John ate Chinese food recently.
Karen bought six lottery tickets one day and quit work the next.
Her co-workers can infer that she won the lottery.
When the phone rang and Liz picked it up, she was all smiles.
It can be inferred that she was pleased to receive the phone call.
A child tries a new fruit and makes a disgusted face.
His mother can infer that he does not like the taste of the fruit.
After feeding her dog, Dolly, crunchy food for years, Beth put wet food in Dolly's dish. Dolly would not touch it.
Beth can infer that Dolly prefers crunchy food.
At 5 o'clock, Jill saw her assistant's office light out and did not hear the sound of typing.
Jill can infer that her assistant went home.
Most of Mary’s dinner guests asked for seconds.
Mary could infer that they enjoyed her meal.
With the storm raging outside and the rain pouring down, Billy looked out of the window. He dropped his kite and began sobbing.
You can infer that he really wanted to fly his kite.
Ted played games, had cake and ice cream, then watched as his friend opened his gifts.
One could infer that Ted was at a birthday party.
You adopt a puppy from the shelter, and he seems nervous and scared. He hides from loud noises and has some noticeable scars.
You can infer that he was abused by his former owner.
Two cars are stopped at a traffic light. The car behind the first one is honking and waving.
You can infer that the person wants the other car to move.
Nancy comes home from her date, runs to her bedroom, and slams the door.
You can infer that her date did not go well.
Whether you’re a student or an adult, learning to make inferences about fiction and nonfiction texts can help you better understand what you just read. Check out these examples of reading comprehension inferences.
The main character is getting ready for her first day of high school.
You can infer the main character is a teenage girl because of the word “her” and the fact that she’s in high school where kids are usually 14 to 18 years old.
“I can’t wait to get back to Maine,” says John as he packs his life jacket and fishing tackle.
You can infer that John has been to Maine before because he says he wants to “get back” there. You can infer that he’s planning to go fishing on a boat because of what he’s packing.
The birds were chirping, flowers were blooming, and the rain was a daily occurrence. The green fields go on forever, this is home.
You can infer that it is spring because that’s when you typically see - a lot of rain and flowers blooming. You can also infer the narrator lives somewhere rural because they talk about large fields, which you don’t usually find in urban areas.
Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. His room is a cupboard under the stairs.
You can infer that Harry’s parents have died because he doesn’t live with them. You can infer that his aunt and uncle don’t like him because of where he sleeps.
Sam runs away from home to go live in the woods.
You can infer Sam is not happy with his home life because he ran away. You can infer that he loves nature because he goes to the woods to live instead of a friend’s house.
Edward has a pale complexion, never eats in front of others, and seems to move more quickly than is humanly possible.
You can infer that Edward is a vampire.
Many people find it hard to tell the difference between “inference” and “observation.” They are both nouns, but making an inference is a process and making an observation is not. An observation is something you notice, witness, or see. An inference is something you conclude by putting together different pieces of evidence.
Everyone makes inferences all the time. You can pull together these definitions and examples to make a conclusion about what inferences are, or infer what inferences are. Read a random paragraph from a magazine or book and see what you can infer about the entire piece using only the information presented in that paragraph.