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I have this sentence using "think":

I was thinking whether or not he has money that I can borrow.

is good English. If I replace "think" with "imagine":

I was imagining whether or not he has money that I can borrow.

Would this be okay English?

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  • They're both correct grammatically, but the sentences have different connotations.
    – TheIntern
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:08
  • @TheIntern I have a feeling that while "think" could be used with two or more posibilities, "imagine" can only be used with one possibility or the other?
    – meatie
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:15
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    "Think" can be used when there is only one possibility, like "I think he has money that I can borrow.". "Imagine" is more like you are fantasizing or dreaming.
    – TheIntern
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:18

1 Answer 1

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Neither think nor imagine is used this way with whether.

To think X is to hold it as a strong idea or opinion that X is true or happened, and to imagine it is to form and subsequently hold such an idea or opinion. These do not suit well with whether, which implies uncertainty between two or more ideas or opinions.

Ordinarily we wonder whether X is true, to indicate that we raise the question in our minds; or if we ponder the question deeply we consider or think about whether it is true.

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  • "I'm going to think about whether or not he has money I can borrow." is valid to say, but has a different connotation. It suggests more that it's the thinker who will be making the decision--it doesn't express a curiosity. It's as if they were a puppetmaster of some kind, who will examine his assets and then make the decision; the lending will be happening or not on the thinker's terms. Sep 6, 2014 at 0:02
  • @HostileFork I agree about 90%; but "thinking about" could be Hmm - I know he just got a promotion...but then he also just got a girlfriend...and he's been talking about buying a house...but on the other hand he owes me a big favour, he wouldn't have gotten that promotion if I hadn't rewritten his report...and he never spends any money on clothes.... Sep 6, 2014 at 0:20
  • But the pattern "be thinking whether ...." could definitely be found in substantial numbers on google.
    – meatie
    Sep 6, 2014 at 22:26
  • @meatie See this Google Ngram. It arose in the 1780s and surged in the early 19th century - by 1818 it was four or five times more common than imagine - but from 1820 on it declined rapidly and is now strictly colloquial. Avoid it. Sep 6, 2014 at 23:13

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