How to Say “I Thought” in Chinese: Formal and Informal Ways

Gaining proficiency in a language often starts with mastering basic phrases and expressions. In Chinese, expressing thoughts is an essential aspect of communication. Whether you want to convey your ideas formally or informally, knowing how to say “I thought” will facilitate smooth conversations. In this guide, we will explore the various ways to express this concept, while also providing helpful tips and examples to assist you on your language learning journey.

1. Formal Ways to Say “I Thought” in Chinese

When expressing thoughts in formal Chinese, you can use phrases like:

A. 我以为 (wǒ yǐwéi)

The phrase “我以为” translates to “I thought” in English. This expression is commonly used to express a previous assumption or belief that turned out to be incorrect. Here’s an example:


Translation: I thought he would come to the meeting today.

B. 我认为 (wǒ rènwéi)

In formal situations, you can use “我认为” to mean “I thought” or “I believe.” It is often used to state personal opinions or perspectives. Consider the following example:


Translation: I thought/believed this decision was correct.

2. Informal Ways to Say “I Thought” in Chinese

When you’re in a more casual setting or conversing with friends, you have several informal ways to express “I thought” in Chinese:

A. 我觉得 (wǒ juéde)

The phrase “我觉得” is commonly used in informal conversations to mean “I thought” or “I feel.” It allows you to express your personal opinions or perceptions in a more casual manner. Here’s an example:


Translation: I thought/felt this movie was very interesting.

B. 我想 (wǒ xiǎng)

Another informal way to express your thoughts is using “我想.” This phrase has a broader meaning which can translate to “I think” or “I guess.” It is often used when expressing subjective thoughts or making assumptions. Consider the following example:


Translation: I thought/guessed it would rain today.

3. Tips and Important Points

Here are some additional tips and important points to consider when using these phrases:

A. Politeness

When speaking in Chinese, it’s crucial to consider the level of formality based on the context and the person you’re conversing with. “我以为” and “我认为” are more formal, while “我觉得” and “我想” are more casual. Adapting your language to match the formality of the situation shows respect and cultural understanding.

B. Tone and Delivery

Using appropriate tone and delivery also enhances the effectiveness of expressing your thoughts. Pay attention to intonation and stress to convey your meaning accurately. Practice with native speakers or language partners to perfect your pronunciation and delivery.

C. Regional Variations

Due to the vastness of the Chinese language and cultural diversity across regions, there might be slight variations in usage. However, the phrases mentioned in this guide are commonly understood and widely used across different Chinese-speaking communities.

4. Recap and Conclusion

In conclusion, expressing thoughts in Chinese can be done in both formal and informal ways. In formal situations, phrases such as “我以为” and “我认为” are commonly used, while in informal settings, “我觉得” and “我想” are more appropriate. Remember to consider the level of formality, adapt your language accordingly, and pay attention to tone and delivery for effective communication.

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