All About the French Verb "Penser" ("to Think")

Deep in thought

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Penser is a regular -er verb that means "to think," "assume," "suppose." Penser is used much like its English equivalents, but there are a few aspects that make this verb a little tricky. Here, we lay out which verb mood to use with penser, the difference between penser à and penser de, the meaning of penser followed by an infinitive, and a few essential expressions with penser.

"Penser" and Verb Moods

Penser is one of those French verbs that requires the indicative mood when used in a declarative statement, but the subjunctive when used in a question or a negative construction. The reason for this is that when a person says "Je pense que..." whatever comes after que (the subordinate clause) is, in that person's mind, a fact. There is no doubt or subjectivity. However, when someone says "Penses-tu que..." or "Je ne pense pas que..." the subordinate clause is no longer a fact in that person's mind; it is doubtful. Compare the following examples:

  • Je pense qu'il est prêt. I think he's ready.
  • Penses-tu qu'il soit prêt? Do you think he's ready?
  • Elle ne pense pas qu'il soit prêt. She doesn't think he's ready.
  • Nous pensons que Marie vient à midi. We think Marie is coming at noon.
  • Pensez-vous que Marie vienne à midi? Do you think Marie is coming at noon?
  • Ils ne pensent pas que Marie vienne à midi. They don't think Marie is coming at noon.

"Penser à" versus "Penser de"

Both penser à and penser de can usually be translated as "to think about." The problem is that this English phrase has two different meanings.
Penser à means "to think about" in the sense of "to have in one's mind, to consider, to think over."

  • À quoi penses-tu ? What are you thinking about?
  • Je pense à mon frère. I'm thinking about my brother.
  • Tu penses à quelqu'un pour ce projet? Are you thinking about someone for this project (do you have someone in mind)?
  • Il pense à ce qu'il doit faire demain. He's thinking about what he has to do tomorrow.
  • Pensez-y avant de décider. Think about it before deciding.(Remember that y replaces à + noun.)

Penser de, on the other hand, means "to think about" in the sense of "to have an opinion about."

  • Qu'est-ce qu'ils pensent de ma maison? What do they think about my house?
  • Que penses-tu de ce film? What do you think about this movie?
  • Elle pense du bien du projet. She thinks highly of the project (she has a high opinion of it).
  • Je ne sais pas ce qu'il pense de notre idée. I don't know what he thinks about our idea.
  • Qu'en pensez-vous ? What do you think (about it)? (Remember that en replaces de + noun.) 

"Penser" plus Infinitive

Penser followed by an infinitive means "to be thinking of / consider doing."

  • Je pense aller au cinéma. I'm thinking about going to the movies.
  • Penses-tu continuer tes études ? Are you considering continuing your studies?
  • J'ai pensé visiter le musée. I thought about visiting the museum.

Expressions and Examples with "Penser"

  • Qu'en penses-tu? What do you think of it ?
  • Je ne sais qu'en penser. I don't know what to think / I can't make up my mind about it.
  • Je pense que oui. (Yes) I think so
  • Je pense que non. (No) I don't think so / I think not.
  • Je pense que tu devrais lui dire. I think you should tell him.
  • Je n'en pense que du bien / mal. I have the highest / lowest opinion of it.
  • Qu'est-ce qui te fait penser qu'il ment? What makes you think he's lying ?
  • Quoi qu'on pense. Whatever people (may) think
  • Quoi que tu puisses penser. Whatever you (may) think
  • Je le pensais diplomate. I thought he was tactful.
  • Il a marché dans ce que je pense. He walked in some you-know-what.
  • Tu vas prendre un coup de pied là où je pense! You're going to get a kick up the backside !
  • Son contrat, il peut se le mettre (là) où je pense! He can stuff his bloody contract ! 
  • Lui, me dire merci? Tu penses? Penses-tu? Pense donc! Him ? Thank me ? I should be so lucky! You must be joking !
  • Tu penses bien que je lui ai tout raconté! I told him everything, as you can imagine.
  • Tu viendras à la fête? Will you come to the party?
  • Je pense bien! Just (you) try and stop me !
  • Il est content? Is he pleased?
  • Je pense / tu penses bien!  You bet !
  • Tu n'y penses pas! You can't be serious!
  • il ne pense qu'à ça! He's got a one-track mind.
  • N'y pense plus! Forget (all about) it !
  • Faire penser à—To remind of.
  • Cela me fait penser à mon frère. It reminds me of my brother.
  • Fais-moi penser à l'appeler. Remind me to call her.
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Team, ThoughtCo. "All About the French Verb "Penser" ("to Think")." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). All About the French Verb "Penser" ("to Think"). Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "All About the French Verb "Penser" ("to Think")." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).

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