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I can sense that you think we had more to discuss.

  • Is it perfectly natural to use "sense" here instead of "tell"?

2 Answers 2

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For this native speaker of American English, both are perfectly idiomatic. They do differ slightly in meaning, as to the degree of the speaker’s confidence.

I can tell that you’re angry

suggests that the speaker is highly confident that the person addressed is indeed angry, whereas

I can sense that you’re angry

is somewhat more conjectural. And, by the way, still less certainty is conveyed by

I sense that you’re angry.

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In a sense, it depends on what you want to express, and not on idiomatic language. So yes, both look idiomatic, and can be followed by a that-clause.

HOWEVER:

I can tell ... ( most likely to mean - ascertain);

I can sense ... ( it literally means I can sense; it may bear some metaphorical meaning );

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    I think both apply in general. But I think they involve slightly different meanings of how you pick up information. I feel "I can tell that you think we had more to discuss" would often mean "because of the things you said, I can judge what you think", while "I can sense..." suggests another source of information such as their attitude or body language.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 7, 2022 at 11:05

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