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.
Expressions with penser