Could someone help me to understand when I should use think of and when think about in sentences?

What is the difference between using one or the other?


I'm trying to think of a context where there is a difference, and it's very hard to do that. What makes this tricky is that the two are pretty much interchangeable in many contexts:

When I think about/think of my mother, who passed away three years ago, I get very sad.

but there are other occasions when one would be slightly (or clearly) favored over the other:

I get excited when I think about football season getting underway.

I can think of 10 reasons why you shouldn't text and drive.

And then there's this gem:

I can't think of it right now, but maybe I will, if I think about it long enough.

If I had to summarize, I'd say that think of seems to mean recalling something specific, while think about seems to mean considering some subject in a more vague or general way for some length of time. The two are sometimes interchangable because there are many situations where you can't think about something without also thinking of it, such as when you are fondly remembering your deceased mother.

This is a great question; I hope others weigh in. I think I might be getting close to something here, but I'm not convinced I've nailed it.

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    I think you are right on. Think of is simply the act of recalling to mind. Think about means to ponder or consider. Lots of times though, one will think of something and then think about that same thing. Much like web surfing in your mind... – Jim Aug 24 '13 at 19:29
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    Of course the other meaning to think of is the inventive case. I just thought of this a new product we could sell. – Jim Aug 24 '13 at 19:31

Adding to the answer above, "think of" is often used when we wish to express an opinion of someone...

  • either without actually doing so:

    I can't tell you what I think of you.

  • or with an adverb in-between:

    I think badly of him.
    I think well of him.

We would not say "I think badly about him" — that would mean that when we think about him we don't think well!

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I'm teaching English in a Senior School as a second language.

With the above examples in mind - -When I say what I think of Raul - I'm meaning that I'll say my opinion in general, about him... not in detail, but -If I say what I think about Raul - I'm meaning that I'll tell some important details I know about him.

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