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What is the usage and meaning of 'I think' in colloquial language? Does it mean 'suppose' or 'cogitate'? For example, 'He is a nice guy, I think.'

My opinion is that, in the above sentence 'I think' does not mean 'I am thinking' rather, it is a supporting colloquial word. Am I right?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

You're on the right track. Here, "I think" is added as a qualifying phrase that indicates some degree of uncertainty. In the example you gave, the speaker is indicating that someone else is a nice guy, but he's not 100% sure about it.

A different way to say the same thing is with "guess". For example, a slightly more formal example of your sentence would be:

He is a nice guy, I guess.

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But note also He's a nice guy, I'm sure also adds a bit of uncertainty. Colloquial speech is strange. –  GEdgar Aug 1 '11 at 14:20
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In your example sentence ("He's a nice guy, I think"), it can mean two things:

  1. In my opinion (despite what others might say), he's a nice guy.
  2. From what I know of him (although I may be wrong), he's a nice guy.

In writing, and in the absence of any further context, the exact meaning is ambiguous. When spoken, the intended meaning could be made clear by stressing one or the other of the words in "I think." If I is stressed, meaning #1 is intended; if think is stressed, meaning #2 is intended.

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But if you intended meaning 1, wouldn't you usually put I think first? I think he's a nice guy? –  Cerberus Aug 1 '11 at 13:30
    
That would be more common, yes, but it's quite possible to put it at the end, especially if the "I think" is an afterthought. –  Nicholas Aug 2 '11 at 1:27
    
OK the we are agreed. –  Cerberus Aug 2 '11 at 4:28
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