Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 68): le verbe – penser (l’usage et conjugaison au présent)


Penser is a regular -ER verb and means “to think.” Penser is commonly used like its English counterpart, but there are a few aspects that make it a little tricky. Here it explains which verb mood to use with penser, the difference between penser à and penser de, the meaning of penser followed by an infinitive, and a few essential expressions with penser.

Penser is one of those French verbs which require the indicative mood when used in a declarative statement, but the subjunctive when used in a question or negative structure. The reason for this is that when a person says “Je pense que…” whatever comes after que (the subordinate clause) is, in that person’s mind, a fact. There is no doubt or subjectivity. However, when someone says “Penses-tu que…” or “Je ne pense pas que…” the subordinate clause is no longer a fact in that person’s mind; it is questionable or doubtful. Compare the following examples:

Je pense qu’il est prêt. I think he’s ready.

Penses-tu qu’il soit prêt ? Do you think he’s ready?

Elle ne pense pas qu’il soit prêt. She doesn’t think he’s ready.

Nous pensons que Marie vient à midi. We think Marie is coming at noon.

Pensez-vous que Marie vienne à midi ? Do you think Marie is coming at noon?

Ils ne pensent pas que Marie vienne à midi. They don’t think Marie is coming at noon.

Both penser à and penser de can usually be translated as “to think about.” The problem is that this English phrase has two different meanings.

Penser à means “to think about” in the sense of “to have in one’s mind, to consider, to think over.”

À quoi penses-tu ? What are you thinking about?

Je pense à mon frère. I’m thinking about my brother.

Tu penses à quelqu’un pour ce projet? Are you thinking about someone for this project (do you have someone in mind)?

Il pense à ce qu’il doit faire demain. He’s thinking about what he has to do tomorrow.

Pensez-y avant de décider. Think about it before deciding. (Remember that y replaces à + noun)

Penser de, on the other hand, means “to think about” in the sense of “to have an opinion about.”

Qu’est-ce qu’ils pensent de ma maison ? What do they think about my house?

Que penses-tu de ce film ? What do you think about this movie?

Elle pense du bien du projet. She thinks highly of the project (she has a high opinion of it).

Je ne sais pas ce qu’il pense de notre idée. I don’t know what he thinks about our idea.

Qu’en pensez-vous ? What do you think (about it)? (Remember that en replaces de + noun)

Penser followed by a verb in the infinitive means “to be thinking of / consider doing.”

Je pense aller au cinéma. I’m thinking about going to the movies.

Penses-tu continuer tes études ? Are you considering continuing your studies?

J’ai pensé visiter le musée. I thought about visiting the museum.

Here are some expressions with penser.

Je pense que oui – I think so.

Je pense que non – I don’t think so.

C’est bien ce que je pensais ! – Just what I thought!

Tout laisse à penser que… – There is every indication that…

faire penser à – to make one think of / remind one of

penser tout haut – to think out loud

Here’s how penser is conjugated in present tense:

je pense

tu penses

il/elle/on pense

nous pensons

vous pensez

ils/elles pensent


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