Presume vs. Assume: What's the Difference? Image

Presume and assume share similar meanings, but there are a few subtle yet key differences that separate them.

Knowing when and how to use each properly can make you a stronger writer and more effective speaker.

Presume vs. Assume

Presume and assume both mean to suppose something to be true. The difference lies mostly in what that supposition is based on. Is it just a hunch, or based on probability?

In addition, both words have multiple meanings, which will be explained and illustrated with examples below.

Presume Definition

To presume means to take for granted or to suppose. However, when you presume, you’re usually supposing something based on probability. The same cannot be said for assume.

Presume can also mean “to act or undertake with undue boldness or without permission.” Someone who acts presumptuous fails to observe the limits of what is allowed or appropriate.

In law, presume means to accept something as true because there is no proof that it is false.

How Do You Use the Word Presume?

Below are several examples of how presume can be used in a sentence:

  • In the American legal system, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • You’ve done this before, I presume?
  • She presumed she would be the only one in attendance.
  • With no evidence, the police had little reason to presume that the husband was the killer.
  • I could only presume that the woman was a friend of my mother.

Assume Definition

To assume also means to suppose that something is the case, but the difference is that your assumption is not based on fact or probability (as is the case with presume).

You might make an assumption based on past experiences, a hunch, or related events, but assumptions are not rooted in fact.

However, assume also has another meaning: to take to or upon oneself, like a new job title or responsibility.

Examples of Assume in a Sentence

Below are several examples of how assume can be used in a sentence:

  • You shouldn’t get mad based on something you assume. If you have questions, ask me.
  • Her parents assumed she was out with her boyfriend when she didn’t return home on time.
  • The king’s son assumed power later that year.
  • I can’t assume responsibility for all of your actions anymore.
  • We assumed something had happened when you didn’t answer our phone calls.

Word Choice Matters

In order to speak and write effectively, you must be able to distinguish between similar words, even when they seem almost identical in meaning.

For more on confusing word pairs, check out our guides on apart vs. a part, council vs. counsel, and advise vs. advice.

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