The other day, I was at the bookstore and I noticed there was a woman surrounded by a large crowd. It was hard to tell what was going on. So, at first, I figured it was an employee handing out free stuff. But when I got a little closer, it looked like she was signing autographs. Since it was a bookstore,

I (knew/noticed/found/found out/figured/figured out/realized) that it could be a famous writer signing books.

I don't want to ask a lot but, could you choose the right word?

And could you let me know which one is right/not right and why and why not?

  • They are all synonyms, are you looking for the difference? What do you think? – AmirhoseinRiazi Sep 3 '18 at 7:28

They all have slightly different meanings:

Realize (or realise, UK) - means you have come to a realisation of something. It is the end of a thought process, but sometimes perhaps an "unintentional" or subconscious thinking. One metaphor sometimes used in place of "a sudden realisation" is "a light-bulb moment".

Notice - literally means that you have seen something. That can also lead to a realisation of something, but it is not technically the same.

Find out - this describes the very deliberate process of discovery. Perhaps researching something.

Figure out - would normally be used idiomatically in place of "find out", but I would say it better describes the thinking stage of that process whereas "find out" suggests investigation, perhaps going out searching for information. I am a British English speaker, but I am aware that "figure" is used more often and a little more glibly to mean "thought".

As regards which word to use in your sentence - I actually think none of them are completely ideal:

I (knew/noticed/found/found out/figured/figured out/realized) that it could be a famous writer signing books.

This is because you are not identifying the person signing books as a famous writer. In fact the sentence implies that you are not sure, as you say it only "could be" a famous writer.

Personally I would say:

I wondered if it could be a famous writer signing books.

But perhaps, considering that "glib" use of "figured" that I mentioned seems to exist in American English, maybe you could say:

I figured that it could be a famous writer signing books.


I figured that it might be a famous writer signing books.

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