Inferences are conclusions that a reader makes using clues in the text. So, an author may not explicitly say something, but they leave little hints behind, and you have to connect the dots to form a conclusion.
And, inference is different than making a guess because it is based on evidence. So, you read, you pick up on those clues or hints that the author leaves behind, and you put them all together to form your inference.
So, let’s look at a couple of examples.
“Charlotte’s toddler is in bed asleep upstairs. She hears a loud thump and then loud crying.”
So, knowing that the toddler’s in bed asleep, and then hearing a thump and crying, you can infer, or Charlotte can infer when she’s at home, that her toddler fell out of bed.
Now, our example doesn’t say the toddler fell out of bed, and it doesn’t say Charlotte ran upstairs and found her child on the floor, but because you know the kid was in a bed sleeping, and then you hear a thump, probably against the floor, and then crying, because the kid is hurt or scared from waking up in the middle of the night on the floor unexpectedly, Charlotte can infer that her toddler fell out of bed, or the reader can infer tha’s what happened whenever they’re trying to process the story and figure out what the author was trying to tell them with these clues.
So, let’s look at another example.
“Nolan sees cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son’s mouth.”
So, cookie crumbs on the floor, chocolate around his mouth, is going to tell you that Nolan’s son got into the cookie jar. And it may not be the cookie jar, it may be that he got into a pack of cookies, but you don’t really know the rest of that. You just know that if there are cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son’s mouth, the kid got into cookies, somehow. So, you can infer he got into a cookie jar, or a pack of cookies, without knowing, without the author’s explicitly saying that to you.
And, that’s all it is. That’s all inference is. Reading something and coming to a conclusion. A lot of the times, it’s really obvious things. If you see a lady coming to a storm, and she’s dripping wet, and it’s raining outside, you can infer that she doesn’t have an umbrella.
So, some things are just common sense. They come to you, you don’t even realize you’re making an inference. But, in the end, an inference is just a conclusion that a reader makes based on evidence.Practice tests help you remember. Take this mini-test to solidify your memory.
The next lesson for you: Interpretation of Expository or Literary Text; these lessons are included in the practice tests.