4

I have seen many answers but they are not similar. What is the difference

I always think of/about her.

I think of/about being asleep at home when I am at school.

I am thinking of/about buying a car.

After 2 answers, I still don’t understand the difference. I would like to read much more information than I have done

2

As a native speaker who is 100% confident of my correct usage but equally unsure as the BBC when it comes to explaining...

  • think of: recall (memory) or conception (new idea)
  • think about: analyse

"Thinking of buying a new car" sounds a lot more obtuse/non-committal than "thinking about buying a new car." The former sounds like you're toying with the idea, whereas the latter sounds like more serious planning.

Similarly, a card saying "thinking of you" sounds more like sympathising, while "thinking about you" could potentially imply willingness to act/help.

You can think about (analyse) something deeply. In general you can't really think of (remember/conceive) something deeply.

Whenever there's a scenario where both "about" and "of" could work (such as with the cars and cards examples), listeners are unlikely to be attentive or pedantic enough to really register the difference. It may be subconscious at most.

Examples

I thought of an answer to your question. Then I though about the answer some more before posting some edits.

You cannot swap the of and about in this sentence.

Examples of incorrect use

It all depends on what you actually mean to say. It most cases, the following are wrong because they don't convey the intended meaning:

I always think about her.

Probably wrong since you are likely remembering rather than analysing.

I think about being asleep at home when I am at school.

Probably wrong since you are likely not analysing. You're probably also not thinking, but rather dreaming/yearning/longing ("dream of being/yearn to be/long to be").

I am thinking of buying a car.

Probably wrong since you are likely analysing the pros and cons.

| improve this answer | |
  • I just got confused...sorry for saying that. – Kentaro Aug 11 at 13:19
5

A non native speaker here. So please feel free to upvote or downvote.

According to BBC's Sian Harris, the Manager of English Language Training & Development at the BBC World Service, and runs specialist courses in London and overseas for BBC staff., the difference is, in the form of responding to a question by Cecile from Belgium,

Hi Cecile and thanks for your question - prepositions are a very tricky area! This is also what's known as a collocation issue...which means we need to look at which words work best in partnership with 'think of ' and 'think about.'. Basically, 'think of' usually means 'imagine' whereas 'think about' tends to mean something closer to 'consider', so the differences would arise in certain contexts. For example, if I say I'm thinking of a tropical beach, please don't interrupt me! I mean I'm imagining it or daydreaming about it. However, a sentence like 'they're thinking about whether to agree to the sale,' means they're considering the sale. In these cases, it's just natural usage patterns that tend to favour one form over another

But when we are talking about people, we often tend to use them both in a similar way: For example, if my friend had an accident and went to hospital, I might send a card and some flowers with a message which could either read: 'I'm thinking of you,' or 'I'm thinking about you', and the meaning wouldn't be significantly different.

I hope that helps Cecile - thanks for your question.


Thank you people for upvoting on an answer which is just a copy and paste from BBC.

Now, after considering for a while, would that BBC remarks be really correct?

For example, let's make following sentences.

I'm thinking of buying a new car.

I'm thinking about buying a new car.

Is there any "imagination" with the above "of" case here? Could the above "of" sentence be interchangeable with "I'm imagining of buying a new car"?(Sounds odd.)

I'm sorry I still need a native speakers' intervention despite I made an answer.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.