What's the difference between "on my mind" and "in my mind"? For example, in this context "There's a lot going on in my mind". I understood that this person is worrying about a lot of things at the moment. What if I say "There's a lot of things going on on my mind", is the meaning changed?

1 Answer 1


We tend to say something is "on my mind" when something is preoccupying our thoughts - that we are actively thinking about it.

Otherwise, we say something is "in my mind" to denote that we have remembered something but it is not at the forefront of our thoughts.

That said, "the mind" is an abstract thing and can mean different things in different contexts and can be described in different ways. Of your examples, the first sounds correct:

There's a lot going on in my mind.

This describes thoughts as events that are happening somewhere, as if the mind is a physical place. You could swap the word "mind" for "head" and this would still sound idiomatic. Your second example does not sound correct because it mixes that idea that with the idiom that something is "on your mind". If you describe the mind as something physical then saying something is "on" it takes on a different meaning. When it comes to speaking about physical things like our head, for example, to say something was "on our head" would mean something is literally sitting on top of our head, like a hat.

There are lots of different idioms relating to thought, some refer to the physical aspects of our mind - the brain, the head - whereas others refer to the mind, or our thinking. The most common expressions of those are:

  • in my head
  • in my brain
  • in my thoughts
  • Hi @Astralbee. From the statement We tend to say something is "on my mind" when something is preoccupying our thoughts I thought you were going to say that the best choice was There's a lot going on on my mind.
    – Luiz
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:43

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