1. andrewmoquin
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    andrewmoquin Banned

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    think of vs think about

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by andrewmoquin, Jul 20, 2009.

    Hello

    Could you please tell me whether it is correct to use "about" in place of "of "in the following sentences:

    - She thought of her childhood when she saw the movie.
    - I can’t think of her name at the moment.
    - I can think of at least three occasions when he arrived late.
    - I thought of you when they said they wanted someone who could speak English.

    Thank you.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Of and about are never synonyms in instances like these.
    I can't really explain the difference though, maybe someone else will be able to do it.
    But yeah, they don't mean the same thing in any of the instances I can think of.
    Like, to think of her name would be like, I can't remember her name, but to think about her name would be to actually think about it, what it means or something like that.
     
  3. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Arron's right that "think of" and "think about" do not mean the same thing. It's kind of a usage thing, really, although "of" and "about" themselves suggest something more specific versus something more general, I think. There's at least a subtle difference between conjuring up a particular image of something (thinking of) and ruminating over its various unnamed aspects (thinking about).

    So either one is "correct" grammatically, but the difference is related to your meaning. All three of your sentences suggest to me that the emphasis is on the reason why something popped into her head (thinking of) rather than anything like considering her name and its meaning or really giving deep thought to various incidences when he arrived late or remembering various aspects of "you" in addition to the fact that you speak English--that kind of thing.
     
  4. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    - She thought of her childhood when she saw the movie.
    n this case, the subtext is that she remembered her childhood, sort of as a whole
    concept. "Her childhood". With 'about', it seems more like she's remembering it, perhaps
    preparing to think on a certain memory.


    - I can’t think of her name at the moment.
    Definitely use 'of' here. To use 'about' would imply that there is some /reason/ you
    can't think about it. Too painful, perhaps. It also implies some sort of deeper thought
    regarding the name. Using 'of' simply means you've forgotten it for the time being.


    - I can think of at least three occasions when he arrived late.
    Same as in the first sentence. Using 'about' implies that you are thinking specifically
    about the times, implies that there is maybe something important you are leading up to,
    etc. 'About' just would feel terribly awkward here.


    - I thought of you when they said they wanted someone who could speak English.
    I feel that both words would fit in this sentence. Though to me, using 'of' implies a
    less meaningful thought about that person. Maybe you just remembered that person,
    and then moved on. To me, using 'about' says that the reason you thought about that
    person is because you thought they could do the job.
     
  5. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    Here's my two cents on the subject.

    In this case, the subtext is that she remembered her childhood, sort of as a whole
    concept. "Her childhood". With 'about', it seems more like she's remembering it, perhaps
    preparing to think on a certain memory.

    Definitely use 'of' here. To use 'about' would imply that there is some /reason/ you
    can't think about it. Too painful, perhaps. It also implies some sort of deeper thought
    regarding the name. Using 'of' simply means you've forgotten it for the time being.

    Same as in the first sentence. Using 'about' implies that you are thinking specifically
    about the times, implies that there is maybe something important you are leading up to,
    etc. 'About' just would feel terribly awkward here.

    I feel that both words would fit in this sentence. Though to me, using 'of' implies a
    less meaningful thought about that person. Maybe you just remembered that person,
    and then moved on. To me, using 'about' says that the reason you thought about that
    person is because you thought they could do the job.
     
  6. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Basically, "about" implies contemplation.
     
  7. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    Of the four sentences, only the first and the last keep their same meaning (more or less) when "of" is replaced with "about." In the middle two, the meaning is changed entirely (as detailed in the above posts).

    However, with the first and last sentences, I don't think it really matters. The subtle nuances are just that - subtle. Extremely subtle.

    In the first sentence, "thinking of" and "thinking about" imply a specific moment in her childhood vs. her childhood in general. Either one works fine, although stylistically, I prefer "of" in this case.

    The last case really comes down to speech patterns in the individual. For some reason I can't explain, "of" sounds more formal in this instance, whereas "about" seems more colloquial, but I'm pretty sure that's just me and how I speak. Either one works fine and has almost exactly the same meaning.

    ~Christian
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I can’t think of her name at the moment. = I can't recall her name at the moment, in which "recall" should be used rather than "of."

    I can't think about her name at the moment = Something is preventing me from thinking about her name. The person might be scared to think about the name, because if she does the boogie man might come.
     
  9. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    - She thought of her childhood when she saw the movie.

    To me this is more like "she" is ruminating on her childhood memories. "She thought about her childhood when she saw the movie." As an alternative, using about in this sentence seem to make it less of a passing thought (possibly a thought not even described) where as using "about" makes it more of a hard and defined thought that she stops on and really examines (most likely explained in a memory scene.)

    - I can’t think of her name at the moment.

    You can't use "about" in this sentence, as it would change the meaning of the entire sentence, making the person forbidden, or unable to think about someone's name, not just the inability to remember it.

    - I can think of at least three occasions when he arrived late.

    This sentence also can't have "about" in as it just wouldn't sound right.

    - I thought of you when they said they wanted someone who could speak English.

    This is like the first sentence. But instead of being narrative, it sounds more like dialog. Thus, "about" doesn't make as much sense. "I thought about you when..." Or "I thought of you when..." It sounds like the person is telling another person this information. The use of "about" makes it sound like they thought about the person, but that was as far as it went. The other one "of" sounds like they might have suggested this person who speaks English for something and is now telling them about it.

    Other uses:

    -- I think about you all the time. I think of you all the time.
    In this case, both could be correct. I personally would go with "about."

    -- I thought about what you said... I thought of what you said...
    In this case, both are correct, but hold different meanings. "About" implies that "I" thought through what the person said to me. "Of" implies a reminiscent thought about what someone said during another event, not contemplation over what the person said.

    --She thought about the situation and made her decision.
    "of" could not replace about in this sentence.

    Overall, for me, it is all in the context of the sentence in and around the terms. About, tends to be a more concrete action. Of, is more of an abstract, fleeting thought.
     

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