“THINK”- Phrasal verbs with about, of, and on

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I recently had someone ask me about the difference between “think about,” “think of,” and “think on.” (Shout out to Benedito! Thanks!) As a native speaker, these phrasal verbs are not even a problem! But after studying the differences, I can see how incredibly confusing it can be. Below, I have described the most common ways to use phrasal verbs with “think.” So, let’s look at an easy way to remember the difference!

First we have:

Think about (someone or something)

Simply, this means to actively contemplate someone or something. 

However, if you “contemplate,” that means you are having a deep thought or pondering. “Think about” is not (usually) the same as pondering or meditating a deep thought. Here are some examples:

“Whenever I think about him, I get goose bumps.”
“I don’t want to think about that movie, its too sad.”
“What are you thinking about right now?”

See? Those were simple thoughts, not too deep and not too quick.

Exceptions include:
 ♦ Using "think about" to mean thinking of a deep thought.
"Sometimes I think about the meaning of life."
 ♦ Using "think about" to mean consider.
"I thought about moving to Spain." ("I considered moving to Spain.")
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Now, lets look at

Think of (someone or something)

Actually, the dictionary definition is the same for this phrase. HOWEVER- it is used in different contexts. Most commonly, “think of” is used as a fleeting thought/memory OR a fact that you know and would like to suggest to someone. For example,

[fleeting thought/memory]- “I think of you whenever I go to the restaurant where we used to eat.”
[fleeting thought/memory]- “I think of our old house sometimes.”
[fact/suggestion]- “Oh, I thought of an idea! We should go see a movie tonight.”
[fact/suggestion]- “I can’t think of any English examples for my lesson.”

Can you see how these thoughts were more quick? “Think of” ideas and short memories.

Exceptions include:
 ♦ Using "think of" to mean thinking of a deep thought.
"Sometimes I think of the meaning of life."
 ♦ Using "think of" to mean consider.
"I thought of moving to Spain." ("I considered moving to Spain.")

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Finally, we have

Think on/upon (someone or something)

This one is MUCH easier to understand! Any time you use “think on” or “think upon,” it is always with a deep thought. You are contemplating or reflecting on someone or something. When you “think on” something, you are focusing on that thought and nothing else. For example,

“I thought upon Abraham Lincoln and what a great man he was.”
“Son, you are being punished. Think on what you have done wrong.”
“I thought on all of the terrible things that had happened.”

Not so hard, right??

*Note: "Upon" is formal and less commonly used than "on."
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So, now that we have covered these 3 very similar phrasal verbs, are they more clear to you? See if you can answer these questions to test your knowledge:

“Think _______” is always used with deep thought.

I should use “think _______” if I want to mention an idea or suggestion to my friend.

Using “think _______” is good for most situations when my thought is not long, yet not quick.

And the most important question:

Are there exceptions to these rules?

The answer is YES! There will always be exceptions with English. They should have named it “Exceptionish” rather than “English.” But if you follow these basic rules, you will be understood and will be able to understand what native speakers are saying a little better when they are using these phrasal verbs.

*I will be writing a PART 2 post about the other phrasal verbs with “think.” Any feedback and/or questions are welcomed anytime! I am here to help make English easier to understand, if anything is unclear I am glad to fix it! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Tom Cruise is famous for his acting. Barack Obama is famous for his politics. It is common for celebrities to go to jail.

Using the adjectives “common,” “popular,” and “famous” are often some of the most confusing to use. I hear even the most advanced students have difficulty choosing one of these to use in conversation. Here is a way to easily remember the differences, so next time you know exactly how to describe something:

COMMON
com·mon
ˈkämən/
Occuring Often. dOne Often. Ordinary.
The letter “O” is common in the description for “common.” The letter “O” occurs often in the description for “common.”
Do you see how easy it is to remember? Now, let’s try some real-life examples:
♦ Train delays are not common in Japan.
♦ Ramen shops are common in Japan.
POPULAR
pop·u·lar
ˈpäpyələr/
liked by many PeoPle.
P‘s” are PoPular with the PeoPle learning English. Just remember- if its PoPular, many PeoPle like it.
♦ Fast Food restaurants are popular in the United States; a lot of people eat there every day.
♦ Recently, Hybrid cars have become popular. Everyone wants to own one.
FAMOUS
fa·mous
ˈfāməs/
known about (by many people).
If something is famous, is is known about by many people. The people may not like it, but they know about it. Its famOUs.
♦ England is famous for its tea and biscuits. (Many people know about its tea and biscuits. People may or may not like the tea and biscuits, but it doesn’t matter- they are famous because people know about them.)
♦ Apple is a famous computer company.
So, here is an example using all words and showing their unique meanings:
Justin Beiber was a popular pop artist. (Many people liked him.) Now, he is famous for going to jail (He is not necessarily liked for this). It is common for celebrities to go to jail. (Celebrities often go to jail.)
Now that you have an easy way to remember the meanings, what are some ways that you can use common, popular, and famous in a sentence?