I've seen 想 mean 'thought' as well and wanted to know whether they're used interchangeably or not.

我没想过这个问题。I've never thought about this question before.

And 想 is also used like this:

你想不想我?Did you or did you not miss me?

So my book doesn't clarify WHY it's different. Why is 想 want, thought and miss? Some grammar to it? Are there more ways to use 想?

3 Answers 3


It's just very common for a word to have multiple meanings. An online dictionary gives the five interpretations:

  1. 思考, 动脑筋 to think, to consider

    让我想一想 = Let me think.

  2. 回忆 to remember

    我想不起来他昨天说了什么 = I can't remember what he said yesterday.

  3. 怀念, 惦记 to miss

    我想你 = I miss you.

  4. 希望, 打算 to hope/want to do something

    我想去旅游 = I want to travel.

  5. 预料, 推测 to anticipate, to predict

    我想这件事没表面上看起来那么简单 = I guess this is not as simple as it looks.


I've never thought about this question before! :)

Here's my observation: for miss, normally you would use it at miss somebody/something, and you can add 念 after 想. for example:


For think about, normally you think about a thing. For example:


For want, normally you can add 要 after 想. For example:

  • If I don't use 要 how can I be sure that 我想去北京 means "I want to go to Beijing" and not "I think of going to Beijing"?
    – julodnik
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 7:39
  • @julodnik What do you mean by "I think of going to Beijing"? This doesn't make much sense even in English.
    – trisct
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 9:08
  • Hmm, now I feel unsure... isn't it grammatically correct to say that? How do you say "I often think of going to Beijing, but I never have time to do it" ? or "I am thinking of going to Beijing this weekend". Why does it sound strange?
    – julodnik
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 9:34
  • 1
    @QuarterOne yes, in word 想念,念 is optional (as indicated in parenthesis). I think after you see more examples you should be able to figure out naturally. If you look at the sentence structure for each category, they’re different too. For miss, it is 想 + noun
    – sylvia
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 2:25
  • 1
    @julodnik "I am thinking of going to Beijing" should be translated to "我在考虑去北京” rather than “我想去北京”. By using 想 here you mean you want to. This can hardly be ambiguous. Although, "我要去北京”, without further context, can both mean "will" or "need to".
    – trisct
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 0:51

As you can see a "心" (mind, heart) in "想", when 想 is used as a verb, it means the subject in somehow in your mind.

If you miss something, it is in your mind. If you consider something, it is in your mind. If you want something, it is in your mind.

English segregated those meanings, but "想" does not. Anything in your mind can be a thing you 想. (similar to "念" which also has a "心" in it)

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