Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese

The Verb "to oumu" Has Some Subtle Differences

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Abe, Namiko. "Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962. Abe, Namiko. (2017, April 25). Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962 Abe, Namiko. "Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962 (accessed October 17, 2017).
Speaking Japanese at a party
Caiaimage/Robert Daly/Getty Images

There are subtle differences within every language when it comes to expressing thoughts and feelings. Beginning Japanese speakers may not need to fully grasp these concepts right away, but if you're expecting to communicate with fluency, it's important to get to know which verbs and phrases are most accurate when you need to speak your mind. 

The verb "to oumu" meaning "I think that," is the proper one to use in a variety of scenarios, including when expressing thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas and guesses.

 

Since "to omou" always refers to the speaker's thoughts, "watashi wa" is normally omitted. 

Here are some examples of how to use to oumu properly in various sentence structures. First, some basic thoughts. 

Ashita ame ga furu to omoimasu.
明日雨が降ると思います。
I think it will rain tomorrow.
Kono kuruma wa takai to omou.
この車は高いと思う。
I think this car is expensive.
Kare wa furansu-jin da to omou.
彼はフランス人だと思う。
I think he is French.
Kono kangae o 
dou omoimasu ka.

この考えをどう思いますか。
What do you think about 
this idea?
Totemo ii to omoimasu.
とてもいいと思います。
I think it is very good.

 

If the content of the quoted clause expresses one's intention or speculation about a future event or state, a volitional form of a verb is used preceding to omou. To express a thought other than one's volition or opinion toward the future, a plain form of a verb or adjective is used preceding to omou as shown in the examples above.

Here are some possible examples of volitional forms of the verb to oumu.

Notice they are subtly different from the examples above; these are situations that have not yet happened (and may not happen). These phrases are highly speculative in nature. 

 

Oyogi ni ikou to omou.
泳ぎに行こうと思う。
I think I'm going to swim.
Ryokou ni tsuite kakou to omou.
旅行について書こうと思う。
I think I will write about my trip.


To express a thought or idea you're have at the time of your statement, the form to omotte iru (I am thinking that ) is used rather than to omou. This conveys immediacy, but without any specific time frame attached.

Haha ni denwa o shiyou to 
omotte imasu.

母に電話しようと思っています。
I'm thinking of calling my mom.
Rainen nihon ni ikou to 
omotte imasu.

来年日本に行こうと思っています。
I'm thinking of going to Japan
next year.
Atarashii kuruma o kaitai to 
omotte imasu.

新しい車を買いたいと思っています。
I'm thinking that 
I want to buy a new car.

 

When the subject is a third person, to omotte iru is used exclusively. It calls on the speaker to speculate on another person's thoughts and/or feelings, so it's not a definitive or even provable statement 

Kare wa kono shiai ni kateru to omotte iru.
彼はこの試合に勝てると思っている。
He thinks he can win this game.

 

Unlike English, the negation "I don't think" is normally placed within the quoted clause. It is possible to negate to omou such as "to omowanai," however, it expresses stronger doubt, and is closer to the English translation "I doubt that." It's not a strong negation, but it conveys doubt or uncertainty.

Maki wa ashita 
konai to omoimasu.

真紀は明日来ないと思います。
I don't think 
Maki is coming tomorrow.
Nihongo wa 
muzukashikunai to omou.

日本語は難しくないと思う。
I don't think Japanese is difficult.
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Abe, Namiko. "Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962. Abe, Namiko. (2017, April 25). Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962 Abe, Namiko. "Expressing One's Thoughts in Japanese." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/expressing-thoughts-in-japanese-4070962 (accessed October 17, 2017).