Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Inference And Prediction


What is the difference between inference and prediction? Both words refer to a conclusion based on some sort of fact, experience or observation. However, the difference lies in the slight variance of usage in one word over another in certain circumstances.

‘Inference’ is a noun and its meaning is the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence. An ‘inference’ can be a verbal statement, but more commonly it refers to a thought process. For example: It seems like a reasonable inference that it is cold outside, because everyone I see is wearing a coat. An inference is usually made about something with a degree of certainty, based on facts like statistics, calculations, observations or generalizations. ‘Infer’ is the verb form of ‘inference’, having the same meaning, to form an opinion or reach a conclusion based on known facts. For example: We can infer that it is cold outside based on what we see people wearing. Synonyms include words like ‘surmise’, ‘deduce’, ‘reason’ and ‘conclude’.

‘Prediction’ is also a noun. It means a statement about what will or might happen in the future. A ‘prediction’ generally is a verbal statement, but it can mean just a mental thought. For example: I made a prediction that it will snow tomorrow. There is also a commonly used verb form of ‘prediction’, ‘predict’. ‘To predict’ means to say that something might or definitely will happen in the future. For example: I predict it will snow tomorrow. While ‘prediction’ and ‘predict’ are usually based on some sort of fact, observation, experience or scientific reason, these meaning behind these words does not have definite certainty of occurring. Something that someone predicts may or may not actually happen. A good example of an everyday prediction is the weather forecast. What is forecasted, or predicted, is based on scientific evidence, but it is not a known certainty, just a probability.

The difference in usage with these words depends mostly on time. ‘Inference’ is used when a conclusion is reached from known evidence, and an ‘interference’ does not necessarily have to be about future events, just a conclusion about something that is not currently known or understood that can be reached by some means of reasoning. Usually when future events are involved, ‘prediction’ rather than ‘inference’ is used, because the future is always unknown, even with evidence and reason. For example, one could make an inference that the boy with untied shoes will trip and fall, and this technically would be a correct usage. There is logical evidence and reason tells us that this is likely, however, the word ‘prediction’ is more likely to be used because it is still in the future. We might say in this situation: I predicted that the boy with the untied shoes would fall, and since I see him crying, I can infer that he did in fact fall down and hurt himself. In this example, ‘prediction’ is used for the future event, and ‘inference’ for the conclusion based on observable facts.

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