What I’m thinking

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Many, many Italian expressions use the verb pensare, which is most often translated as “to think.” You can imagine how this verb will come up often in conversation – with family and friends, of course, but also with acquaintances.

In fact, the verb pensare has so many uses in Italian, many of which do not translate directly into English that we must really learn to think in Italian to master the use of this verb. But, once mastered, speaking with these phrases will truly help one to sound like a native!

Because this verb is so important, we will give the full conjugation below. You will notice that pensare is conjugated as a regular –are verb. As always, remember that the most important forms for conversation will be the first three, singular forms (io, tu, Lei/lei/lui) and the noi form for the plural. The stressed syllable has been underlined.

Pensare – to think
io penso I think
tu pensi you (familiar) think
Lei/lei/lui pensa you (polite)/she/he thinks
noi pensiamo we think
voi pensate you all think
loro pensano they think

Read below for many (but certainly not all) of the phrases that use the verb pensare. These phrases have been put into groups in our table to aid in understanding the different situations in which pensare can be used.

First, some common expressions that use pensare with the meaning of to think are listed below. You will also notice that we’ve included the phrase “I realized” in one of our expressions. If you need help understanding this phrase, refer to our blog, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! What I realized…”

I should also note that the pronouns “ci” and “ne” are an important component of many of the expressions that use the verb pensare. These pronouns have been highlighted in red when they are attached to a verb, in order to make them easy to recognize and to separate them from the verb itself.

Che ne pensi?

What do you think about it?

Pensaci bene!

Think about it! / Really think it over!

Fammi pensare.
mici pensare.

Let me think.
Let me think about it.

Ora che inizio a pensare…
Ora che ho iniziato a pensare…

Now that I start to think…
Now that I’ve started to think…

Ora che ci penso bene…
Ora che ci ho pensato bene…

Now that I really think about it…
Now that I’ve really thought it over…

Che pensi?
Che stai pensando?!
Che sei stato(a) pensando?!
Pensandoci, mi sono reso(a) conto di…

What are you thinking?
What are you thinking?!
What were you thinking?!
Thinking about it, I realized that…

Non serve a niente pensarci adesso.

It doesn’t help thinking about it now.

Che ne pensavi?

What were you thinking about it? 

Penso di/che…*

I think that…

Pensavo di/che…*

I was thinking that…

Ho Pensato di/che…*

I thought that…

*How to use “di” and “che” with the verb pensare will be the topic of another blog!

Below are some expressions where pensare is directly translated into English with the meaning of “to take care of it.” The verb itself does not actually mean “to take care of” but rather the expressions as a whole do mean that someone is taking care of something. I call these “idiomatic expressions,” but really these expressions just show the difference that sometimes occurs when one tries to expresses the same idea in English and Italian.

Another interesting thing to know about Italian is that in order to emphasize who is doing what, or to signify one’s intent to do something, the subject pronoun (io, tu, lei/lui, etc…) is placed after the verb!

Here is an example situation for when to invert the usual Italian subject pronoun/verb order. Let’s say I am sitting in a room and having a conversation, while eating, playing cards, etc. with a group of people when the doorbell to the house rings. I want to signify that I will get up and go to answer the door. In this case, I will say, “Vado io,” to mean, I will be the one to go to answer the door right now.” This concept is expressed a lot more concisely in Italian, isn’t it?

Ci penso io.

I’ll take care of it.

Ci pensi tu?

Will you take care of it?

Ci pensavo io.
Ci ho pensato io.

I was taking care of it.
I took care of it.

Finally, let’s say we want to describe the circumstances around which our thought/thoughts (pensiero/pensieri) or idea/ideas (idea/idee) are based. (Please note that when the English word idea is used in a phrase to mean a “guess” or “impression,” the Italian word, impressione” is the correct translation.)

For instance, we can talk about how a thought or idea has come to our mind (mente) or into our head (testa) using the verb to come (venire), just as we would in English, and then go on to describe our thought.

Or, perhaps we have been thinking about something and want to talk about why we have changed our mind! It should be noted that Italians express a change of mind differently than an English speaker. To an Italian, the idea (idea) always changes, rather than one’s mind. But to an English speaker, it is the “mind” itself that changes.

If you want to say what you have changed your mind about, just add “su,” which in this case means “about” to the phrase and describe the change!

Mi viene in mente.

(It) comes to mind.

Mi vengono in mente, tante cose.

Many things came to mind.
Lots of things came to mind.

Ti vengono in testa, certe cose/ certe pensieri.

Certain things/ Certain thoughts came into his head.

Mi è venuto in mente.

It came to mind.

Cambio idea ogni giorno.

I change my mind every day.

Ho cambiato idea su…

I’ve changed my mind about…

Hai cambiato idea? 

Have you changed your mind?

Ho cambiato idea su…

I’ve changed my mind about…

If you can learn to use the verb pensare in these expressions, you will have really learned to think in Italian.

For more lessons in conversational Italian, click here.

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at www.learntravelitalian.com.

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