At first glance, “thinking of you” and “thinking about you” are two phrases that seem the same. The differences between the two may be so subtle that only a few people would notice.
We often use these phrases interchangeably. Sometimes we prefer to use one phrase over the other, depending on the context.
Let’s look at some instances when we use “think of” and “think about.”
Thinking of You VS Thinking About You
These phrasal verbs “think of” and “think about” both mean to consider doing something or remembering someone or something.
The dictionary often categorizes these phrasal verbs with the same meaning, as they are mentioned under the one heading, as seen in the Cambridge Online Dictionary.
These phrases are often used interchangeably. For example, we can say, “what do you think of the current oil crisis?” or “what do you think about the current oil crisis?” to mean the same.
Differences between “Thinking of You” and “Thinking About You.”
As a native English speaker, I notice some differences between the phrases “thinking of you” and “thinking about you.” They are so subtle that you mightn’t even notice.
Let’s look at two sentences:
- “I think of you every now and then.”
- “I think about you every now and then.”
Both are correct sentences. But…
Usually, I attribute “thinking of you” to mean a momentary thing. Like something reminded me to think of you. Maybe I smelled some perfume that reminded me of you. That made me “think of you.”
“Oh, I just thought of Fred when I went by his old town!”
“Think about you” often implies to native English speakers and me that rather than thinking about someone momentarily, you’re thinking for a longer period of time. Maybe you are thinking more deeply about someone or something.
“I think about the weather/politics/love/ money/ travelling/ different cultures/ sports/ the meaning of life.” This suggests you think more deeply about these topics.
When we say “Thinking Of Someone/Something.”
The phrase “thinking of you” is commonly used in the following situations:
To Show Sympathy For Someone
“Thinking of you in this difficult time.”
We often use the phrase “thinking of you” if we know someone is going through a tough time, such as the death of a loved one or illness.
You can often find this phrase; “thinking of you,” on the “Get Well Soon” cards.
“Oh, I just thought of Fred when I went by his old town!”
When you see or hear something that reminds you of a person or causes you to recall a memory, we often say, “thinking of you.”
To Let Someone Know We Are Thinking or Missing Someone or Something
- “Thinking of you even though we are miles apart.”
- “I was just thinking of you.”
We can let someone know we are thinking about them even if they are not with us at the moment.
An Idea That Just Came to Your Mind, a Non-Specific Thought
- “I am trying to think of the restaurant we should go to tonight.”
- “I thought of an idea.”
- “I just thought of something we could do today.”
This is used for spontaneous thoughts, thoughts that have just come to your mind, or thoughts that aren’t specific.
Looking For Quick Ideas or Solutions:
“Can you think of anything?”
Can you think of the best beach near here?
“Can you think of the answer?”
You are not asking for much thought here, just some quick suggestions or answers.
You Are Aware of Something or Haven’t Given it Much Thought Yet
- “I hadn’t thought of doing that!”
- “I’ve heard of Lady Gaga but don’t know much.”
If you say, “I’ve heard about Lady Gaga,” it implies that you are not only aware of the singer, but maybe you know more information, such as her recent news or gossip.
When To Say “Thinking About Someone/Something.”
The phrase “thinking about you” is commonly used in the following situations:
We Like The Person
We often use “think about you” if we like a person and we want to tell them in a nice way that they are on our mind. This is often said in a romantic way or to family members.
We can still opt to use “thinking of you” to suggest the same, and it may sound less intense. “Thinking about” suggests that you are putting more of your attention or focus on something.
We Cannot Stop Thinking About Someone or Something
- “You’re the first person I think about every morning.”
- “You’re all that I ever think about.”
These are very direct, flirtatious comments to show that someone is important to you and that you are putting a lot of attention or focus on them.
When You Think About a Topic In-Depth
- “I think about politics all of the time.”
- “I think about love/ money/traveling/ different cultures/ sports/ the meaning of life…” (the potential list of topics are endless)
- “I think about her laugh, her smile, her eyes…”
- “I’ve been thinking about it all day long.”
There are many things that we might focus on each day, such as our job, our family matters, our problems, and our interests.
It’s not something that just came to your mind; rather, it is probably something that you’ve thought about for a while:
When You Want Someone to Start Thinking More About Something
- “Think about it and let me know if you’re interested in the project.”
- “Think about what I said and how you can improve.”
- “Can you think about it?” (Meaning= Can you give me some time to consider it?)
Maybe you want the person to reflect on something before making a decision or taking action. This is not a quick idea or solution. “Think about” suggests thinking more deeply about something to find the answer.
In conclusion, while “thinking of you” and “thinking about you” might seem like they mean the same thing, there are some subtle differences in usage.
“Thinking of you” is more commonly used to describe thoughts that come to your mind spontaneously. It can also be said when you are missing or sympathizing with someone.
“Thinking about you,” on the other hand, is more often used to describe thoughts you have been focusing on for a while. It might show you have considered something more.
Both phrases are used to describe thoughts or ideas, but “thinking of you” is more likely to be used for quick, spontaneous thoughts, while “thinking about you” is more likely to describe deeper, more thoughtful reflection.
Hopefully, this has helped clear up any confusion about these two phrases! As a native English speaker, this is how I would best describe the subtle differences.
If you have any questions or anything to add, please let me know in the comments below! 🙂
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.