Submitted by sam2 on December 24, 2010

Difference between “lying” and “misleading”

If you lie to someone, have you necessarily misled them?

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Interesting topic. I think misleading is worse than lying. Let me explain my perspective...
Misleading someone is lying with intent to trick that person into believing in a falsely candid truth. Most misleading statements are framed in part-truth, and that is what makes this practice particularly egregious. Anyone who hears a statement where enough truth is present, will consequently trust that statement as being a whole truth. Misleading is the number one political tool. Part truth, hidden truth (the one needing to be lied about). Lying on the other hand can be less consequential. Good manners for example, are often rooted in what we call "white lies". Example; How does my hair look? - Wonderful! (all the while thinking it looks pretty disastrous). To not hurt feelings, we all use lying as tool for kindness and politeness. Someone who would tell the truth 100% of the time would quickly be judged as a heel -- and justly so. As for more important lies (like adultery ones), they are all with the intent of misleading another. So misleading seems to take the cake here. Well, that's my take on this. Obviously, it's more complicated than that.

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It's also possible to mislead by telling the truth.

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The two words are synonyms, but "to mislead" is broader and includes "to lie" in its range. One can however mislead without telling an outright lie, such as by omitting pertinent details.

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Neither of has have really addressed the question---is it possible to lie without misleading. All we have said is that it is possible to mislead without lying.

The initial question is, I think, philosophical, not grammatical. As with a lot of philosophy, definitions are needed that go beyond the dictionary meanings.

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To lie only requires that the speaker not tell the truth. If the liar misleads, that involves what the person they are lying TO believes. They are only misled if they believe the lie. So, no, to lie does not NECESSARILY indicate misleading, but it indicates an intention to do so.

Was that pedantic enough for the forum? :)

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I think the answer is yes. They are different. Next question, please.

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---"To lie only requires that the speaker not tell the truth."

I dunno; seems to me if a person thinks something is true, even though they are mistaken, saying what one thinks is not lying. The concept of the lie seems to me to carry within it the intent to mislead.

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Lying is knowingly telling something that's not true with the intent to deceive. Thus, being mistaken or telling fictional stories for entertainment are not forms of lying.

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scyllacat is right. If the person being lied to doesn't believe what is said, then that person is not misled.

You could also have told someone what you believed was the truth when in fact you were in error, i.e. had your facts wrong. If you were believed then you would have misled them, albeit unintentionally.

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Misleading is an unintentional untruth. Lying is intentional untruth. It doesn't matter what the hearer believes. The intent of the statement is the key.

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Sarah - misleading someone is not necessarily unintentional. Someone can tell a person something with the intention of misleading them or deceiving them.

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