Thinking or Thought

Thinking or Thought

By Alena Lien, 

21 May 2020



"Thinking" and "thought" are both nouns that refer to the process or activity of using one's mind, or one's ideas or opinions.



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Process or Product


If we think about verbs associated with "thinking" and "thought," we usually "do some thinking" and we usually "have or give some thought."


  • "I did some serious thinking about the matter."

  • "I gave some serious thought about the matter."



Even though they are synonyms, "thinking" is usually referred to as process, and "thought" is often referred to as the product of thinking - maybe because of the associated verbs.



Process


When it is about process, "thinking" and "thought" can be interchangeable.


  • "His thinking is reflected in his later works."

  • "His thought is reflected in his later works."



Or you might have to change the structure with associated verbs.


  • "I have some thinking to do about the project before our next meeting."

  • "I have to give the project some thought for our next meeting."



Product - Ideas/Opinions


Now when it is about ideas or opinions, "thought" is often preferred.


  • "I have some thoughts about the project."

Not - "I have some thinking about the project."


  • "It's just a thought."

Not - "It's just a thinking."


  • "The very thought of losing to him really frustrates me."

Not - "The very thinking of losing to him really frustrates me."



However...

  • "The lecture changed my thoughts about climate change."

  • "The lecture changed my thinking about climate change."


I think both of these work here because it sounds like they're referring to both process and opinion. It's like saying:

  • "The lecture changed the way I thought about climate change."


Although "thought" is still preferred when it comes to ideas or opinion, I think it is more natural to say something like:

  • "The lecture changed my mind on climate change."




Related expressions


"It's the thought that counts" - to say that good or kind intentions are the most important thing, even if the gift itself is not perfect.


  • "I don't need another hand cream but I guess it's the thought that counts."



"Spare a thought for [someone]" - to think about someone who is in a difficult or unpleasant situation.


  • "Spare a thought for hospitality and retail workers who have to work during the pandemic."



See also: