Posted by: janecronin | November 18, 2018


“Pensar” means “to think” and is related to the English word “pensive” meaning “thoughtful”.  It is a root changing verb (yet another one) which alters its root vowel from “e” to “ie” in four out of its six present tense forms.  In other words “pienso” (and not “penso”) means “I think”.

Before we look at more examples, we need to give some thought to what “think” actually means in English.  I presume we can agree that “to think” is an activity of the brain which all of us are capable of to a greater or lesser extent.  There are those who think deeply, those who think occasionally and those who don´t think when they should, but all three cases refer to the same mental activity.

However, in English we have another use of the verb “to think” which really means “to believe”.  For example, if I “think” that the concert starts at 8 o’clock or that my friend would like to come or that it will be quite good, I’m not really focusing on my thought processes so much as expressing my opinion or belief.  In Spanish when I want to say “I think” in the sense of “I believe” I need to use the verb “creer” (to believe).   So, I would say: “creo que el concierto empieza a las ocho”; “creo que a mi amiga le gustaría ir”; “creo que va a ser bastante bueno”.

There is yet another verb we can use for “think” which has more to do with expressing an opinion, that  is – “opinar”.  “What do you think?” in Spanish would often be: “¿Qué opinas?”  However, please don´t get too hung up on the finer differences between these three verbs as they all have similar meanings.  It is simply more usual to use “creer” and “opinar” in some situations when we would naturally use “think” in English, and therefore we are inclined to over rely on “pensar” in Spanish.

So, when would we specifically use “pensar”?  Well, if you are thinking of doing something, you would use “pensar en”, for example “Estoy pensando en vender mi coche” (I’m thinking of selling my car).  If you see someone deep in thought you might ask: “¿Qué estás pensando?” although don´t expect a truthful reply.

The noun from “pensar” is “pensamiento” (thought).  These articles could be entitled “mis pensamientos sobre los verbos en español” but I think that sounds a little too pompous.  As well as the adjective “pensativo” (pensive) there is also “impensable” (unthinkable).  It’s one of those words you can say with lots of emphasis about something you completely disapprove of or think should not happen under any circumstances “¡Es absolutamente impensable¡”.  Curiously, there is no such word as “pensable” as far as I know.

A thinker is “pensador” or “pensadora” and finally there is a rather neat idiom which can be used when something happens when you least expect it – we say that it has occurred “en el momento menos pensado”.

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