Using 'Pensar'

Verb Meaning 'To Think' Also Used To Express Opinions, State Intentions

Thinking
Pensando. Espera por favor. (Thinking. Please wait.). Wade M/Creative Commons.

Pensar typically means "to think," but it is not always used in the same way as the English verb. Most significantly, the words that follow pensar might not be the ones you would expect.

Keep in mind that pensar is conjugated irregularly. When the stem pens- is stressed, it becomes piens-. Thus, the present indicative forms are pienso (I think), piensas (you think), piensa (he/she/you think), pensamos (we think), pensáis (you think), piensan (they/you think).

Here are the main uses of pensar:

Using Pensar by Itself

Most frequently, pensar, when used by itself, is the equivalent of "to think."

  • Pienso, luego existo. (I think, therefore I am.)
  • No pienso mal de ellos. (I don't think bad of them.)
  • El que piensa demasiado siente poco. (The one who thinks too much feels little.)

Using Pensar Que

Pensar que is a very common way of indicating opinions or beliefs. It often is translated appropriately as "to believe" rather than "to think." In the positive form, it is followed by a verb in the indicative mood. Note that while que in this usage usually can be translated to English as "that," it often can be left untranslated, as in third and fourth examples.

  • Pienso que vivo como un cerdo. (I think that I live like a pig.)
  • Mi madre piensa que el doctor es culpable. (My mother believes that the doctor is at fault.)
  • No quiero pensar que me equivoqué. (I don't want to believe I made a mistake.)
  • También pensábamos que la recuperación económica iba a ser más rápida. (We also used to believe the economic recovery was going to be quicker.)

When used negatively, no pensar que is followed in standard Spanish by a verb in the subjunctive mood. It is not unusual, however, to heard the indicative mood used in casual Spanish.

  • No pienso que seamos diferentes. (I don't believe we are different.)
  • No pensábamos que fueran a darnos problemas. (We didn't think they were going to give us any problems.)
  • Mis amigos no piensan que yo tenga más de 21 años. (My friends don't believe I'm more than 21 years old.)

Using Pensar De

Pensar de is another way to say "to have an opinion about."

  • Esto es lo que pienso de tu regalo. (This is what I think about your gift.)
  • Tenemos que cambiar de lo que pensamos de nosotros mismos. (We need to change what we think about ourselves.)
  • Ya he indicado antes lo que pienso de la clase. (I have already indicated what I think about the class.)
  • No es bueno preocuparse por lo que los otros piensan de usted. (It isn't good to worry yourself about what others think about about you.)

Pensar sobre can also mean to have an opinion about, especially when used in a question. Pensar de is more common.

  • ¿Qué piensas sobre la nueva web? (What do you think about the new web site?)
  • ¿Qué piensan sobre los ataques suicidas como instrumento táctico para ser utilizado en una guerra? (What do they think about suicide attacks as a tactical instrument to be used in a war?)

Using Pensar En

When followed by en, pensar typically means "to think about" in the sense of having one's thoughts focus on something.

Note that this isn't the same as using "to think about" in the sense of having an opinion.

  • Estoy pensando en ti. (I'm thinking about you.)
  • Pablo no piensa en los riesgos. (Paul doesn't think about the risks.)
  • Las chicas sólo piensan en divertirse. (The girls think only about having fun.)
  • Nadie piensa en cambiar las baterías. (Nobody thinks about changing the batteries.)

Pensar sobre can mean basically the same thing as pensar en but is much less common and is probably overused by English speakers speaking Spanish as a second language or when translating from English to Spanish.

  • Pienso sobre eso día y noche. (I think about it day and night.)
  • Primero hacen y luego piensan sobre ello. (First they acted, and then they thought about it.)

Following Pensar With an Infinitive

When followed by an infinitive, pensar is used to indicate plans or intentions.

  • Pensamos salir mañana. (We're intending to leave tomorrow.)
  • Yo pienso estudiar medicina de veterinaria en la universidad. (I'm planning on studying veterinary medicine at the university.)
  • Pensaron salir de Venezuela, pero decidieron permanecer. (The were planning to leave Venezuela, but they stayed.)
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Pensar'." ThoughtCo, Apr. 7, 2018, thoughtco.com/how-to-use-pensar-3079809. Erichsen, Gerald. (2018, April 7). Using 'Pensar'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-pensar-3079809 Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'Pensar'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-pensar-3079809 (accessed May 23, 2018).