No Nonsense Newbie Tips:想 vs. 觉得

In the next installment of our No Nonsense Newbie Tips, lets examine another important distinction long giving Chinese learners grief.

Like “I know“, “I think” is one of the very first phrases learned when studying a foreign language.  In Chinese, there are two phrases with much overlap that can both be translated as “I think”- 我想 and 我觉得.

Today, lets try to make sense of these two.   This is an especially difficult distinction to spell out, as each has meanings beyond simply “I think”.  We’ll explain each, give simple example sentences, and finish with important takeaways.

1. 我想 (wǒ xiǎng)

Definition: I think, I reckon, I hope, I miss

There are many meanings of this one humble phrase. First, at it’s core, 我想 means simply “I think”.  More precisely,  It corresponds more to “I reckon”, “I imagine”, or “I suppose”. It usually is used to indicate you believe or speculate something to be true, but haven’t verified with evidence.


ràng wǒ xiǎng yīxi�
Let me think for a moment

wǒ xiǎng míng tiān kě néng huì xià yǔ
suppose it might rain tomorrow

zhè bǐ wǒ xiǎng de gèng hǎo
This is better than I imagined!

Second, 我想 can also mean “I want” or “I would like to”. Similar to, but not completely synonymous with 我要 (a future post?), 我想 can show your wish or hope for something to occur.


wǒ xiǎng fēnshǒu
want to break up

Nǐ xiǎng chī jiù chī ba
If you want to eat, just eat!

Finally, the third major use of 我想 is to show you miss, yearn, or long for something.


wǒ zài guó wài tè bié xiǎng jià rén
I really miss my family when I’m abroad

2. 我觉得 (wǒ jué de)

Definition: I think, I feel

The first use of 我觉得 indicates you are expressing a falsifiable opinion or assertion. You have mulled over a set of facts and have settled on a conclusion.  It is your opinion or judgement, and it is settled in your mind.


jué de zhōn gwén hěn nán xué
I think studying Chinese is hard

jué de zhè tiáo qún zi hěn hǎo kàn
I think this skirt is really nice

我觉得这家餐厅很好吃, 你觉得呢?
jué de zhè jiā cān tīng hěn hào chī, nǐ jué de ne
I think this restaurant is great, what do you think?

Second, 我觉得 can also be used to express a feeling, sensation, or perception. Whether you feel hungry, tired, scared, or excited, let the world know using 我觉得.


jué de yǒu diǎn lěng
I feel a bit cold

zǎo cān méi yǒu chī, xiàn zài wǒ jué de hǎo è a
I didn’t eat breakfast, now I feel so hungry!

我越想这件事情, 越觉得伤心
wǒ yuè xiǎng zhè jiàn shì qíng, yuè jué de shāng xīn
The more I think about this, the more hurt I feel.

So…Remember this!

1)  Simplistically, think of 我想 as a hybrid of the English “I believe” and “I would like”.  Similarly, think of 我觉得 as a mix of “I think” and “I feel”.  As a rule of thumb, in the context of “I think”, 我想 is your “gut feeling”, where 我觉得 is more your reasoned judgement.

2) Both have other meanings beyond “I think”. You are sure to encounter the different meanings of each word in beginner texts.

In addition to “I think”…
我想 means “I would like” or “I miss”
我觉得 means “I feel”

Hey, we never said this language is easy!

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