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What did you think about/of the movie? (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s)

Before I came across this sentence, I used to think that the complement of ‘think’ in the above is the prepositional phrase. (This leads me to think 'what's the difference from how did you think about/of the movie?' For if 'what' is an adjunct, the two adjuncts would have the similar meaning.) But Merriam-Webster dictionary’s account for its meaning: “to have an opinion about someone or something” leads me to think that it’s not the pp but ‘what’ that is the complement of ‘think’; and the pp is another/second complement or an adjunct. So the above sentence’s meaning is ‘what opinion did you have about/of/concerning the movie?’. Is my guessing proper?

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Yes, you are correct. What I think is my opinion on something.

"How" is tricky. If you ask someone how they think of something, you might want to mean "in what way (positive, negative, neutral)", but they can (and probably will!) take it to mean "by what process". For example, this would be normal English:

"How did you think of Big Awesome Movie?"

But this is asking the person who created Big Awesome Movie about their creative process—not asking an audience member for their opinion after seeing Big Awesome Movie.

But the tricky part is that in other situations, "how" is the ask right way to ask for an opinion!

How did you like Big Awesome Movie?

(I think this probably derives from "how much did you like", but I could be wrong.)

  • 'How did you like' is a weird one - taking your definition, the actual question is 'In what way did you like X?', and a common answer I would give is "A whole lot!", but that's not a way of doing something. Even as a native speaker, English confuses me sometimes, so I really feel for anyone who has to try and learn it. – Damien H Oct 3 '14 at 5:17
  • @DamienH: Yeah, that's why I think it's actually a derivation of "how much". I don't have any solid etymological facts behind that, though. – Tim Pederick Oct 3 '14 at 7:47
  • Which is why a best way to learn English or any language is to interact with it or get exposed to as much of it as possible as used in context by native speakers, and not try to analyze it over much or attempt to learn rules about when certain constructions are used. – user6951 Oct 3 '14 at 13:24

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