Most people who study Japanese have probably heard of these 2 verbs before and have probably been interchanging them freely. Well, is there even a difference? We’ll discuss it here on this blog and hopefully, clear up any confusion!

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Kangaeru and Omou

For this blog, we will mainly be discussing 2 phrases/verbs that are quite commonly used in normal, everyday conversations. For beginner level students, these 2 verbs are one of the first things you learn when you’re able to string a few words together. The main things we need to look at in order to determine whether or not they are different are their respective definitions and usages. If you are on this page and are already using these two verbs, there’s a high possibility that you are using it as the Japanese equivalent of “I think”. This is technically correct but well, we’ll discuss it further below!

Kangaeru (考える)

Definition-wise, it’s quite straight forward! It simply means “to think”. In a sense, this emphasizes more on the act of actually thinking –to reason and to ponder on something. This is used in situations where you actively use logic and go for a more realistic approach in whatever you are thinking about. This is why you hear “考えすぎるよ!(Kangae sugiru yo: You’re overthinking!)” instead of “思うすぎるよ! (Omou sugiru yo!) as the latter phrase doesn’t exist!

Kangaeru (考える)
Kangaeru (考える)

A few situations where you could use this sentence is when you’re ordering something at a restaurant. Your conversation might sound something like this..

Server: “ご注文はお決まりですか?”
Gochuumon wa okimari desu ka?
Have you decided on what you want to order?
Customer: “すみません、まだ考えている.”
Sumimasen, mada kangaeteiru
Sorry, I’m still thinking (about it).

Since ordering food is something you take seriously (duh), you would have to use “kangae” instead of “omou”. You will of course learn more about the definition and uses of “omou” later on in this blog so let’s look at a few more sentence examples using “kangae”!

A: “何を考えてるの?”
Nani wo kangaeteru no?
What are you thinking about?
B: “別に。。”
Betsu ni..

The conversation above is another example of a situation where you cannot use “omou”.as this situation involves the act of thinking and pondering. Let’s look at another example.

Kare wa nani wo kangaete yoi ka yoku kangaeta.
He thought about/pondered on what answer to make.

Other situations where you could use “kangae” is when you are making a decision, asking someone about their decision, taking time to think about something, and thinking about something in a more rational and logical manner. Here are a few more examples for your reference!

Omou (思う)
Omou (思う)
Rainen Kanada he ikou ka to kangaeteiru.
I am thinking of going to Canada next year.
Kare wa menajya no moushide wo yoku kangaeteru.
He is debating/thinking about the managers offer.
Kanojyo wa nagai aida sono ken wo kangaeta.
She dwelled on the matter for a long time.

Omou (思う)

Similarly to “kangae”, it is defined as “to think”. In contrast to “kangae”, “omou” takes a more emotional way of thinking where you use your feelings or “sense” to think about something. Not necessarily shallow, but the act of thinking isn’t as active as “kangaeru”. If you want to say “I think he’s a nice guy” or “I think the movie was boring” in Japanese, you definitely will need to use “omou”. In a way, it’s like expressing your opinion nonchalantly–something you didn’t necessarily think logically about but just feel in the moment. Let’s look at a few examples. 

Biyonse wa yoi kashu da to omou.
I think Beyonce is a good singer.

In the sample above, the speaker sounds like they are expressing emotions that they feel towards the singer (Queen Bey) rather than stating something that is “decided on”, “omou” revolves more on ones feelings or emotions towards something which is almost always subjective. 

Kare wa konai to omoimasu.
I think he won’t come.
Yuurei wa sonzaisuru to omou.
I think ghosts exist.

Again, when looking at the two statements above, you can see how the reasoning behind them are mostly based on feeling or sense. In a way, it has a connotation of “I feel like..”. The two statements above can be interpreted as saying “I feel like he won’t come” and “I feel like ghosts exist”. 

Ashita yasumi wo torou to omotteimasu.
I feel like taking a day off tomorrow.

General situations where you can use “omou” is when you are expressing your opinion about something based on your feelings or intuition, to believe in something, to expect something, and to express a wish or desire.  Here are a few more examples for your reference.

Ashita hareru to ii to omoimasu.
I hope it will be fine tomorrow.
Raishu wa yuki ni naru to omou.
I believe it will snow next week.
Ashita no ban, jikan ga aru kanatte omottetandakedo…
I was wondering if you were free tomorrow night…

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