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All About Penser

Everything you need to know about the French verb penser - to think


Penser is a regular -ER verb and means "to think." Penser is commonly used like its English counterpart, but there are a few aspects that make it a little tricky. This lesson explains 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 which require the indicative mood when used in a declarative statement, but the subjunctive when used in a question or negative structure. 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 questionable or 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 vs 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 - learn more)

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 - learn more)

Penser + verb
Penser followed by a verb in the 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.

Penser conjugations

Expressions with penser
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