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I have been thinking about other ways to say "I believe" in an essay and I came across "cogitate". Do you think it would be appropriate to use this word in an essay's conclusion? For instance, does this sound all right?

In conclusion, I cogitate that success solely relies on hard work.

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    (unrelated: hard work and feasibility, at least, because no amount of hard work will let the unaltered human body bench press 10,000 lbs for example.) – person27 Mar 9 at 6:53
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    Just say "I conclude that success relies solely on hard work". Or even just "Success relies solely on hard work". – Ben Mar 9 at 13:49

10 Answers 10

45

No, that sounds kind of pretentious and just wrong, as though you looked through a thesaurus to find a synonym. What is wrong with just using “believe”? You wouldn’t use “cogitate” exactly this way either. This word means “to meditate (on)”: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cogitate - you would use this to describe thinking about something deeply and intently. Not to describe something you think or know to be true. “Cogitating” is more of an active process, and “believing” might be the result of “cogitating”. In any case the word “cogitate” is not very common, and does sound pretentious to me. “Meditate on” or “ponder” are preferable and more common (but still, none of these words are appropriate in this context).

26

Firstly, it's pretty rare to use cogitate at all. Using any word related to it, the most common is "cogitation", the action noun for the act of cogitating.

Second, think has two main senses in English. Most of us native speakers don't even necessarily realise it, but if we learn a language that has separate words for the two, like French, it kind of clicks. In French, there is penser, the active sense of think, where we might say think about, and croire, the stative sense of think, which is closely matched in sense to believe (though clearly with some difference).

Cogitate is a close match to penser, not to croire. It means the act of thinking, pondering, and so on. You might, if you wished to be pretentious, say:

Let me cogitate on that a minute.

You can't say what you want to say. It doesn't make sense.

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    French "penser" also has this double meaning though, sorry ("Je pense que ce n'est pas une très bonne analogie.") – Aaron Mar 8 at 13:24
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    Interesting! My school French lessons stressed using the two distinctly, that there was only one correct in any situation. I suppose that avoids unfortunate and embarrassing misunderstandings when writing or speaking, but may lead to confusion when reading or listening! – SamBC Mar 8 at 13:56
  • When comparing it to French, I think that "refléchir" makes more sense, as in "Laisse-moi réfléchir une minute". – sleblanc Mar 10 at 5:29
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I agree with Mixolydian, "cogitate" sounds pretentious and doesn't fullfil exactly your intention.

I don't know where you have found that word but what about checking the Oxford Thesaurus?

Let me suggest some alternatives

In conclusion, I think that success solely relies on hard work.
In conclusion, I consider that success solely relies on hard work.
In conclusion, I'm of the opinion that success solely relies on hard work.

10

As Mixolydian states, cogitate is more about meditation or consideration of something. However, you could use it by rearranging your sentence a bit:

After some cogitation, I conclude that success solely relies on hard work.

This implies that the conclusion was reached after the cogitation.

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    It's not implied as much as it is stated. – person27 Mar 9 at 6:50
  • @person27 explicitly stated at that, which is explicitly not implicit. – Aethenosity Mar 9 at 18:25
7

If you're looking to be the opposite of pretentious, you could say

I reckon that success solely relies on hard work.

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    Colloquial but an accurate meaning. – ohwilleke Mar 7 at 23:59
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    "Reckon" in this sense is common in British English but less so in the US. Americans tend to think of it as typically rural, which it definitely is not in the UK. – Mark Foskey Mar 8 at 5:28
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I think you are trying to suggest that your conclusion is based on some careful consideration. So you might try: In conclusion, I determine (or have determined) that success solely relies on hard work.

From the OED.

Verb

Ascertain or establish exactly by research or calculation. ‘the inquest is entrusted with the task of determining the cause of death’ with clause ‘the point of our study was to determine what is true, not what is practicable’

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In my native French language, the verb "cogiter" has specific meaning. It is used when one experiences deep, chronical thoughts about a subject. It often refers to an unpleasant feeling, an obsessive thinking, which sticks to you for a relatively long period.

So when I read

In conclusion, I cogitate that success solely relies on hard work.

I get a weird feeling about your sentence's time consistency.

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    We can even go back to the Latin root: cogito. As Descartes once said, 'cogito, ergo sum' - I think, therefore I am. In this sense it's more of a continuous action than an opinion. – DaveMongoose Mar 8 at 16:36
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In English, the word "Cogitate" is used almost exclusively for humorous or comic effect.

I've been cogitating whether to go for a perambulation, but I fear it may precipitate.

Means

I've been thinking about going for a walk, but I think it's going to rain.

It's not that they aren't proper words, it's that they are ten shilling words used in a ha'penny sentence.

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The word "cogitate" means to ponder on think about intently. A deliberate thought process whereas "believe" is relative to a matter of faith or speculation. Perhaps the phase "I speculate that" might be more appropriate.

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    The verb speculate may work in some contexts, but I don't think it fits very well in the OP's specific example: In conclusion, I speculate that success solely relies on hard work. It might work better, though, in a context like this: We speculate that the success of our experiments could be replicated in a broader trial. – J.R. Mar 8 at 17:49
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    What can I tell you I am an old man who has not written an essay in a hell of a long time. Just putting my 2 cents in. I am old enough to actually to known people who have used the word cogitate on a daily basis. Me thinks I shall get me hence to cogitate a spell in peace – Old_Fossil Mar 9 at 5:45
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In formal writing for essays I would avoid using "I think" or "I believe" or "in my opinion". If you are writing the essay, then it is understood to be your original thought and your beliefs or opinions. These phrases are just filler. Whatever you are saying before should lead to the logical conclusion that success relies solely on hard work. Even the phrase "in conclusion" looks like filler to me without context.

For example:

  1. This is my dog spot.
  2. Spot is a very hard worker.
  3. Spot became very successful after working hard for a long time.
  4. Spot sacrificed his free time to work.
  5. Spot's success is due solely to his hard work.

In this example, you can see how your fillers can be placed anywhere and not really change the meaning:

  1. This is my dog spot.
  2. I believe he is a very hard worker.
  3. In my opinion he became very successful...
  4. I think he sacrificed a lot...
  5. In conclusion, I believe that Spot's success is solely due to hard work.

When writing an essay, you should present facts and evidence, and let conclusions arise from the flow of the logic. If it's fiction, then you can write such a narrative but it would be odd to include yourself. Even if it's an opinion piece, then you would still avoid any kind of narrative, and instead present facts to support your own opinion, but not in a way that ties it to yourself.

  • Thanks for the tips! I use these fillers simply because this is what my writing book recommends and the teachers here expect to see these words in an essay. Nevertheless, I will take your tips into consideration. – JustAnAmateur Mar 9 at 14:01
  • What you call filler, others call style or flavor. – Aethenosity Mar 9 at 18:28

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