You’ve probably noticed that native speakers use a variety of phrases to express their thoughts – definitely a lot more than “I think” and “in my opinion.”
Today, we’ll go through five common alternatives and explain them in detail so you know exactly what they mean and when you can use them to express your opinions in English with more nuance.
1. I find
“Find” usually means to discover something that’s lost. But here, it has another related meaning: “to discover something through your own observation.” So saying “I find” is like saying “Based on what I have discovered, I think.”
For example, if someone asked you what you thought about baking, you might reply:
- I find baking quite difficult.
- I find baking to be quite difficult.
The difference between these statements and “I think baking is quite difficult” is that you can only say “I find” if you’ve actually tried to bake and discovered that it was difficult. On the other hand, you can say “I think” even if you’ve never tried before.
Here’s someone who finds baking relaxing:
A good attempt at croissants this morning for breakfast. I find baking really relaxing (and tasty of course!) 🥐 🥐 pic.twitter.com/1Lutk0dqhF— Mark Swift (@Mark_Sw1ft) August 18, 2020
Keep in mind that “I find” doesn’t need to be used only for things you’ve tried.
- I find his opinions quite convincing.
- I find this painting so moving.
If you find someone’s opinions convincing, you’ve probably spent some time reading their opinions and discovered that they make sense and you agree with them. If you find a painting moving, you’ve spent time looking at a painting or a movie and found that it moves you.
2. I believe
I truly, truly believe that beauty is something that comes from within.Emma Watson
“I believe” is an expression used to introduce some principles that are important to us. It has also become a way to say “I think” with greater certainty. When you say “I believe” before sharing an opinion, it’s almost like you’re saying “I think … , and I’m sure about it.”
For example, if you are being interviewed for a job, you could say “I think I will be an asset to your company,” but it’s more convincing to say “I believe … .” Here’s an example from a business English lesson:
Here are some more examples from private emails of a US company (made public after a scandal):
- Recently, I have done a review of our portfolio and I believe our accounting loss exposure for 2001 is limited.
- My employment with Enron is to be terminated, the reason given by HR, for not meeting performance standards. However, I firmly believe that this is not the real reason.
3. I’m guessing
“I’m guessing” can literally mean “I am taking a guess.” However, “I’m guessing” can also be a way to say “I think” with a little more certainty. “I’m guessing” basically means “Based on my observations, I think … .”
- From the look on his face, I’m guessing he failed the interview.
- I’m guessing the stock market will crash after the election.
In the following video, the speaker uses “I’m guessing” to make an observation about herself.
You might be wondering how “I’m guessing” differs from “I guess.” “I guess” can also be used to mean “I think,” but because it has other meanings and connotations (including reluctance), we recommend sticking to “I’m guessing.”
4. I have a feeling
“I have a feeling” is similar to “I’m guessing.” (If you have to put a finger on the difference) “I’m guessing” is usually based on an observation, “I have a feeling” is based more on intuition. It comes from within.
However, in practice, statements starting with “I’m guessing” and “I have a feeling” are usually based on a combination of intuition and observation. “I’m guessing” just sounds slightly more certain. It’s usually used to say how you feel about some future event.
- I don’t know why, but I have a feeling Belgium’s going to win the World Cup this time.
- I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I have a feeling it’ll suck.
However, you can also use “I have a feeling” for things that are happening now or have already happened in the past.
- I have a feeling this policy was made by politicians who are totally out of touch with reality.
- I have a feeling those buyers are interested in our house.
5. I doubt
Finally, let’s not forget that it’s also important to say when you don’t think a certain way. A popular English expression to say this is: “I doubt.” This means “I think it’s unlikely (X will happen/X is true).”
For example, here it is in the same library of business emails:
- I doubt a week extension would give them much more comfort, but would probably be nice to have.
- I doubt that he will want to talk about it without his lawyer.
To sum up, here’s a chart that shows how certain each expression sounds compared to “I know.”
In the meantime, if you want to practice sharing your opinions with the expressions covered in this post, book a lesson with one of our tutors. We have plenty of discussion lessons to get you started!