When I was leaving home for a language learning center, something inside my mind was trying to tell me to walk instead of taking a bus or I would be late for the class. I might be too tired to walk so I chose the bus, and then I was late.

Given that situation, is it formal to use "hunch" in the following sentence?

A hunch was trying to stop me from taking a bus to the English learning center.

Or using the sixth sense is better?

  • 15
    hunch sounds OK to my AmE ear. But with "have", as James K has worded it: "I had a hunch that taking the bus would make me late". Hunches don't tend to be actors who "try" to do things. May 7 '17 at 22:00
  • It kind of depends. Was the "something inside [your] mind" based on evidence? Something like the fact that the bus always takes at least a little bit longer than walking and you had already left later than usual, or the fact that the bus slows down in the rain and a big storm was due to hit? Or is the bus almost always faster, but you just "had a feeling" that that time it wouldn't be, without any evidence that you can identify?
    – 1006a
    May 8 '17 at 17:55

A "hunch" doesn't seem like quite the right word here.

It would be possible to say "I had a hunch that, if I took the bus I would be late."

A simple word to use instead might be "feeling": "I had a feeling that I should avoid the bus". Or if you want quite formal: "I had a premonition that if I took the bus I'd be late." The word "intuition" is another possibility. I would prefer these to "sixth sense" in this context.

  • 1
    doesn't premonition imply there was some other clue which gave me that feeling in the first place? In this case the OP has no other reason except her own feelings
    – user13267
    May 8 '17 at 0:12
  • 2
    @user13267 It seems to me the meaning of premonition is not what you think. dictionary.com/browse/premonition -- "He had a vague premonition of danger."
    – David K
    May 8 '17 at 1:01
  • Premonition is wrong here. May 8 '17 at 12:23
  • Feeling is the most appropriate word that I would use. May 10 '17 at 7:47

To add onto the good answers people have already given, I wanted to address the general form of these types of sentences. As Tᴚoɯɐuo already mentioned, hunches are not actors who try to make you do things, but merely inform you. This is true of any of the other words or phrase you may use instead. You can see that in James K's example:

I had a hunch that if I took the bus I would be late.

In this example you can see that hunch has been changed to merely inform your decision-making, rather than actively make the decision by stopping you. However, other feelings and emotions can take a more active role. Something like:

My fear was trying to stop me from entering the building.

Fear makes more sense in this sentence because the effects of fear on a person are more involuntary and out of a person's control.

  • I don't think the comma in your first blockquote is correct. May 8 '17 at 12:23
  • It was copied directly from James K's post; I didn't want to misrepresent it but I agree that the comma is unnecessary. May 8 '17 at 12:28

Try gut feeling

A gut feeling was trying to stop me from taking a bus to the English learning center.

Or alternatively intuition might be correct too

My intuition was telling me to walk instead of taking the bus.

  • 1
    ... and 'instinct'.
    – mcalex
    May 8 '17 at 11:58
  • 3
    Normally, you'd say "My gut was telling me to..." As it stands, your example is completely unidiomatic if not outright wrong. May 8 '17 at 12:24

I think I would say:

Something told me not to take the bus to the English learning center.

"Something told me" is an expression for the feeling you described -- when an instinct tells you something is true or that you should act in a certain way, even though you have no concrete reason for doing so. You might also use it like:

He said he was at school, but something tells me he was at the movies with his friends.

Your use of "hunch" is certainly understandable here, and perhaps you could say that when you didn't take the bus you were "acting on a hunch". But hunches are usually objects, not subjects. To say that the hunch "told you" something doesn't sound totally natural to me.

  • 1
    IMHO this answer doesn't quite make it clear enough that "something [told,made,etc.] me" is a very idiomatic way to convey this in English. It's understood that the "something" in question is a hunch, an instinct, a gut feeling, or some other intangible influence, and not just the common pronoun standing in for "some thing".
    – A C
    May 8 '17 at 19:52
  • @AC, it may be idiom, but the idiom is a very good fit for this question. That is exactly what people would commonly say.
    – fixer1234
    May 9 '17 at 1:14
  • @fixer1234 that was my point -- since Jura didn't say much other than "I'd say this" it would be easy to overlook this answer as one random opinion, but it's one of the most natural ways for a native speaker to express OP's sentiment. In fact, OP almost uses the idiom in first sentence in the question.
    – A C
    May 9 '17 at 1:43
  • Thanks for the comment @fixer1234. I updated the answer to be a little clearer on the function of "something" in the sentence.
    – Rob
    May 10 '17 at 1:44
  • 1
    @fixer1234 I elaborated some more. Hopefully that makes it clear.
    – Rob
    May 10 '17 at 3:13

How about "premonition"?

From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) [wn]:

      n 1: a feeling of evil to come; "a steadily escalating sense of
           foreboding"; "the lawyer had a presentiment that the judge
           would dismiss the case" [syn: {foreboding}, {premonition},
           {presentiment}, {boding}]
      2: an early warning about a future event [syn: {forewarning},

Actually, a few others in this definition are not bad on their own...

  • 2
    "premonition" implies something worse than being late. "I had a premonition that if I walked I would be hit by a bus." May 8 '17 at 17:58

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