Our students and all French learners are often confused by a few French verbs that look quite similar, but have a different meaning. Here are a few of these pairs that are very commonly used in French.
I. Penser vs Croire
Penser mainly means “to think”, whether it is followed or not with the conjunction “que”. There are slight nuances when it is followed by the preposition “à”: then, it may mean “to think of”, “to consider”, “to remember (to do something)”.
Je pense que tu as raison. = I think you’re right.
Il pense avoir compris l’origine du problème. = He thinks he has understood the origin of the problem.
Mon fils m’a dit qu’il pense souvent à moi. = My son told me that he was often thinking of me.
Parfois je pense à changer totalement de travail. = Sometimes, I consider totally changing my job.
Il faut que je pense à changer mes dates de congé. = I have to remember to change my holiday dates.
The verb croire definitely means “to believe,” and has this meaning mainly when talking about religion or when you want to express that you’re very convinced of something.
But in everyday language, the French use it much more to express an idea, a thought, a reflection. Then it means “to think”. When French people talk among themselves, a very usual reply to someone who says something unexpected or surprising is: Tu crois ? = Do you think so?”
Je crois en Dieu. = I believe in God.
Je crois qu’il dit la vérité. = I believe he says the truth.
Il croit qu’il n’arrivera jamais à me faire changer d’avis. = He believes he’ll never get me to change my mind.
Tu crois qu’il va réussir ? = Do you think he’ll succeed?
On croirait qu’il va neiger. = It would seem it’s going to snow.