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Chinese Grammar: Lesson: 以为 and 认为

The first time you saw Lupishu, did you think he was a snake? You quickly learned you were totally mistaken and that Lupishu is a little cute and intelligent dragon, right? Well, the Chinese have two different verbs to show that you “thought" and “mistakenly thought”, isn't that meowsome? Let us show you how to tell the difference between thinking correctly and thinking wrongly in Chinese with 认为 (rènwéi) and 以为 (yǐwéi)!

  • 以为 is defined as "to believe, to think, to consider, to be under the impression".
  • 认为 is defined as "to believe, to think, to consider, to feel".

Pretty close, huh? However, there’s a big difference between the two verbs and that’s the fact that one expresses that you were thinking correctly, whereas the other means you mistakenly thought something. Isn’t that fascinating?

Use 认为 to express thinking correctly

You can use 认为 when you’ve given something some thought, feel certain about something or want to express your opinion of something because you’ve considered it carefully. The first character of 认为, (rèn), which you can also find in 认识 (rènshí, to know), and means "to recognize; to know" will help you tell the two apart.

Structure

Subject + 认为 + Phrase

Examples

认为
I think he is right.

认为 女儿 漂亮
I think his daughter is pretty.

认为这不
He feels this isn’t my fault.

Use 以为 to express think wrongly

以为 is perfect when you suppose or assume something but are uncertain or for things you thought were true and for which it turns out you were mistaken.

Structure

Subject + 以为 + Phrase

Examples

以为 法国人
I thought that you were French. (but it turns out I was mistaken).

以为今天 星期六
I thought today was Saturday. (but it turns out we’re not Saturday).

以为
He thought I was home. (He assumed I was)

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