What is the difference in meaning between I think and I am thinking in the sense of having an opinion? Grammar books say that it isn't correct to use the verb think in the present continuous in that sense, but Joey in the 22nd episode of the 6th season did exactly that. Here it is:

Well it’s just—it’s one of those situations that I just hate. Y’know? A massage client gave me three tickets to the Helmet-Pelts exhibit at the Morgan Chase museum.

Joey: (nodding knowingly) Now you’re thinking you gotta sleep with him.

How the meaning of the sentence change if he said now you think?

3 Answers 3


Verbs of inner state, unlike most verbs, do not normally take the progressive in English.

So I think (I feel, I believe) are the ordinary unmarked forms.

When they are used with the progressive, this is "marked" - not the normal form - and generally emphasises that the inner activity is going on at this very moment.

So if somebody says "I'm thinking that ... " it says that they're thinking that at that moment, with the implication that they might not think that at other times: perhaps they've just realised something; or they are working out what they think as they are saying it; or even perhaps they half expect somebody else to contradict them and change what they think.

Similarly in your example the implication is that the other person didn't think that before, but has it as a new idea.

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    I'm thinking I might have fish for supper; I think that murder is wrong. Jun 11, 2020 at 18:40

We often prefer to use the present simple rather than the present continuous with verbs describing states such as “think”, “agree”, “hope”, “know”, “look”, etc. However, we can use the present continuous with some state verbs when we want to emphasize that a situation is temporary, for a period of time around the present.

You’re thinking.

This is something he is thinking at this very moment.

You think.

This signifies that it is his opinion. The verb “think” in the simple present tense expresses your personal belief/conscience which remains all the time.


"I think that A" means it is my opinion. "I am thinking that A" often means I am considering A. This is an extension of the literal meaning, that in my mind at the time of speaking is the idea A. The statement is also used as a way of proposing A for consideration.

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