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For example, 1. I have been thinking I wanna go abroad since I was a child. 2. I have thought I wanna go abroad since I was a child. 3. I thought I wanna go abroad since I was a child.

Which is better?

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  • It would be more idiomatic to say I have wanted to go abroad since I was a child. May 26, 2020 at 8:15

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"I thought" tends to refer to a single, momentary idea, or a long-held belief, for example:

  • I thought we'd go to the zoo today.
  • I always thought pasta grew on trees

When we say "I've been thinking" it is to indicate a prolonged and specific period of thought, for example:

  • I've been thinking, and I've reached a decision.

Neither of these really fit your example well, because you're trying to convey that this isn't an idea that came into your head overnight, but neither can you point to a specific period of deep thought.

That doesn't matter though - because you don't need either in your example as you can just say "I have wanted to go abroad since I was a child". This draws out the desire to go, rather than the thought to go.

In fact, saying "I think I want to..." sounds like you're not sure.

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  • I don't think "I've been thinking" means a specific period, at least not from a grammatical perspective. "I've been playing piano since I was a child" is the same kind of construction, and means it's been happening since then, and continues to be the case. If the sentence said "I've been thinking about going abroad since I was a child", that would mean more or less what @TAI intended I think. I suspect the problem is that "I've been thinking I wanna go abroad" is a lot less natural than saying "I've been wanting to go abroad" May 26, 2020 at 22:38

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