What's the difference between these English verbs? Learn how to use “suppose” “believe” “anticipate” “think” “predict” correctly. These are synonyms, but with subtle differences in meaning… Perfect practice for intermediate to advanced level English learners.
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Knowing the subtle differences and understanding how to use each of these verbs accurately and naturally is a really good sign of the difference between an intermediate student and an advanced English speaker because these verbs can all be used in really similar situations, they're synonyms.
I suppose it can be confusing to know when and how to use them. I think you know what I mean, right?
But I believe that by the end of watching this video you'll be clear on how to use all of them correctly. I anticipate you'll have some questions but I'll do my best to answer as many of them as I can.
I predict that by the time we get to the mini quiz at the end, you'll have no trouble at all. Let's go!
Of all of these verbs, ‘think' is the one I'm certain you know and you feel comfortable using. Suppose, believe, anticipate, predict, they can all be synonyms of think.
And think has quite a few meanings as well. It can be used in phrasal verbs and other expressions but if we focus on the meaning that is similar to the verbs we've been talking about, then think means to feel that something is true, based on facts or knowledge that you have.
So we use it to take an educated guess.
- I think it's going to be a hot day tomorrow.
So I'm making a guess and it's based on the weather that we've had in previous days this week and maybe I've seen the weather report so I'm not a hundred per cent confident that it's going to be hot but I'm using the information that I have to make that guess.
And by using think, we're communicating that we're unsure. We're not a hundred per cent certain right? If I was certain then I would say:
- It will be a hot day tomorrow. I think we need to turn left but I'm a bit lost.
Now if you're a regular student of mine, then you'll know that I'm often talking about how important collocations are and even with simple verbs like think, it's often the words that are used with it where my students make mistakes.
So collocations are words that are commonly used together in naturally spoken English.
(to) think of (someone) or (something)
And with the verb think, the preposition of is often used. When we think of something or someone, we're remembering them and often keeping their needs or their happiness in mind.
Our neighbour is always thinking of us and dropping home-baked goodies on our doorstep.
If I think of someone as something then I have a specific opinion about them.
- I always thought of him as a great athlete.
- I've always thought of myself as a city person but I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the farm.
(to) think about (someone) or (something)
If you think about something, then you're carefully considering it right? You're weighing up different options to make a decision.
- I know I said I'd make the offer by the end of the week but I need more time to think about it. It's a tough decision.
Quick note. It is much more natural when you're showing appreciation to someone to say: Thanks for thinking of me.
Rather than: Thanks for thinking about me.
I suppose you've heard this verb before but I wonder if you are completely confident in how to use it.
We use the verb suppose when you generally believe or you think that something is true or possible but you're not completely sure.
So of course, that sounds very similar to the definition of think, right? Let's look at an example.
- I suppose he's going to show up late again. He always does.
- I think he's going to show up again. He always does.
So both of these examples are correct. You can use each of these verbs like this but there is a subtle difference. Think is just a little bit more certain like you feel that you are right whereas suppose suggests that you're not quite convinced of your own feelings. Maybe you have some information, enough to take a guess but you don't really have any solid proof.
And when you're using think, well you might also have some information that helps you feel more confident about your feelings. Maybe someone has said to you that they hadn't seen him in the office all day. Maybe he regularly turns up late so you're using the information that you've got to confidently take a guess. When you're using suppose, it puts your feelings in a little more doubt.
Now you can also use suppose when you are being sarcastic when you think that something is true or correct but you're not really happy about it.
I suppose I should finish my homework before I come over.
You can also say “I suppose so” as a way to agree with someone and again to show that you have some doubts or maybe that you're not loving the idea.
- Could you help me to edit this report by the end of the day?
I suppose so.
We use believe when we have an opinion that something is true or that what someone is saying is true. But it doesn't have to be an opinion based on fact, it can simply be something that you feel is true.
- I believe that we'll find the right person for the job. We can't give up yet.
So again, it's a synonym of think right? So the differences are really subtle but like the verb suppose, when we use believe, it does sound a little less certain.
However it is a verb that has power like you trust in your instinct. You feel that you're correct but perhaps you don't have the evidence to support it but you do have your faith or trust that it will be.
Now believe is a verb that can be used and is often used in the passive voice.
We say: It is believed that…
And you'll often hear the adverb widely used as well.
It is widely believed that…
and that's to emphasise that it's thought to be true by many people.
So we use the passive voice when we don't know or maybe we don't want to say who believes that so it's a really great sort of collocation, chunk of words to learn and practise using together.
Now we use the verb anticipate when we think that something will probably happen so you believe that something is coming in the future. You can't anticipate that something has happened in the past or the present, we anticipate the future, right?
- We anticipate our sales will triple by next year.
So if I say that: I believe our sales will triple, it's just my own personal opinion or my feelings right?
However, if I use the verb anticipate well then I usually have some kind of information or facts to back that up. I've got reasons to believe that something is going to happen in the future.
And when we anticipate something, we usually prepare ourselves to deal with it too. We know or we think that we know that something is coming so we can prepare for that moment or that event in the future.
- I anticipated the test would be difficult so I studied extra hard.
- It's a good thing that we anticipated such a large crowd and provided the extra parking.
And last but not least, we use the verb predict which is actually quite similar to anticipate because we use predict to guess or to explain what we think will happen in the future before it actually does happen.
But the very subtle difference is that we use anticipate when the event that will happen in the future is going to happen at a specific time and we usually use predict when the event will happen further into the future or we don't know what time it's going to happen.
Scientists predict that machines will be quicker in learning and predicting the future than humans!
But we could equally say: We anticipate that machines will be quicker and faster at learning than humans by next year.
Now remember that in many situations, you could use several of these verbs correctly but the meaning of each of those sentences would be slightly different.
Let's just look at a comparison.
- She believes that 2021 will be a great year.
- She predicts that 2021 will be a great year.
- She thinks that 2021 will be a great year.
- She anticipates that 2021 will be a great year.
- She supposes that 2021 will be a great year.
So all of these sentences make sense but there are some really subtle differences.
In the first example, by using the verb believe, well it doesn't sound very factual right? She well it doesn't sound very factual right? She might not have much information to back up that belief but she has faith, she has the feeling that 2021 is going to be great.
So in the second example, she not only believes but she's told someone that she believes. She's announced her belief, right?
In the third example, if she thinks that 2021 will be great then she's formed that opinion based on some information. Maybe she's considered some facts or some ideas right? We know that coronavirus vaccine is coming right so we think next year is going to be better.
When we use anticipate, well we can assume that she's planning for 2021 to be great. She's based her belief on some information and she's organising or she's preparing everything to make that happen.
In this example, think and anticipate can be used pretty interchangeably but anticipate is definitely a more advanced way of expressing that idea. It also suggests more specific and more formal language.
And lastly, well she's got some doubts about 2021 being great. She's not sure. The facts and the ideas, maybe they suggest that it's gonna be great but she's not totally convinced so she's really expressing her doubt by using the word suppose. I suppose it's gonna be good.
All right as always, we've got a little quiz to help you test what you've learned. Are you ready to get started? I've got some sentences for you for the space.
Don't forget that you need to change the form of the verb to make sure that the sentence is correct so that might mean conjugating the verb so the grammar's accurate. Most of these examples are really common expressions or collocations where one verb fits better than the others so think about the meaning and the intention of that verb first and look for clues in the prepositions and words around that verb, those collocations.
1. We're not _____ any major issues will be raised at the meeting tomorrow.
Anticipating is correct.
2. Everybody likes her and _____ highly of her.
Now the clue is here. Thinks.
3. If you had asked me to ________ how I would spend the year 2020 last year, I would have been wrong.
4. Since you have been so good today, I _______ we can stop for ice cream on the way home.
5. After watching a few sci-fi documentaries, he now ______ in aliens.
So again, look at that preposition for a clue. Believe, you're right.
So how did you do? Tell me down in the comments especially if any of them were quite challenging for you and can you think of any other synonyms of the word think?
If you can, share them down in the comments below, there are definitely a few more to explore. I love that you have stuck with me all the way through to the end of the lesson and you've done the hard work. You're awesome! Well done.
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