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Is it correct to use the phrase "Think on it"?

You can use sleep on it for thinking about something overnight and you can say "I'm thinking on my bed" to mean that I am sitting on my bed and thinking, but is it correct to use "think on it" as a replacement for "think about it"?

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  • The more common way to say it, at least, is: "Think over it". Sep 18, 2013 at 11:30
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    And think it over likely more common than Think over it
    – mplungjan
    Sep 18, 2013 at 11:39
  • @mplungjan Whoops, that's actually what I meant to say. I must have got muddled up because of the OP's framing: Think __ it. :P Sep 18, 2013 at 11:46
  • "Think it over" is another common expression in US English, although "on it" is often used and is perfectly understandable here. Sep 18, 2013 at 12:26

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Colloquially, in the UK, yes, we would say I'll think on it often with the meaning, not spoken but implied, 'overnight' or a few days. It is, though, interchangeable with 'think about it', which carries no time implication at all.

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  • Reduced in the past to ‘think on’t’, which occurs 12 times in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Sep 18, 2013 at 12:17
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    That's still how they say it in parts of the North in the UK!
    – bamboo
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:24
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    They also say Think on! round here in Yorkshire.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:25
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    Sarcastic meaning though, Colin, similar to 'yea, right!' in the South, although we use 'think on!' as well at times.
    – bamboo
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:27
  • Oh, no! Aryeh is asking whether Shakespeare was incorrect in his language?
    – GEdgar
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:34
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"Think about it" is the most common according to this NGram, but both "Think it over" and "Think on it" mean essentially the same thing.

As Edwin Ashworth mentioned in a comment, "think on it" is defined in the Free Dictionary as an idiom:

to contemplate someone or something; to muse or reflect on someone or something.

"Think about it" is the most generic, used in all sorts of situations, but it can have a cautionary implication:

"Whoa, are you sure you want to do that? Think about it."

"Think it over" is often used when urging someone to take time to consider something:

"You don't have to decide right now. Think it over."

"Think on it" is more used when pondering or musing.

"She decided she would lay down and think on it."

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No, it is not strictly correct, but you will be understood anyway.

In America, "think it over" has a connotation that implies you should spend at least a day making a hard decision. "Think about it" implies an immediate imperative, "you're making a mistake RIGHT NOW, stop what you're doing & engage your brain".

An American would probably take the "think it over" meaning from the phrase "think over it", and they might assume you're you're having a brain fart, are tired or a non-native speaker.

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    You'd better tell the people at the 'McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs' that they've got it wrong: think (up)on someone or something: to contemplate someone or something; to muse or reflect on someone or something. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) I thought upon Abraham Lincoln and how much we all owe him. I thought on all the fine things we used to do. ( idioms.thefreedictionary.com/think+on ) Sep 18, 2013 at 15:16
  • It sounds archaic, like scripture. You might find it there. But to actually speak that way today would be to re-introduce something that essentially passed out of the language long ago. You might do it if you were setting a play several centuries in the past. It violates our expectations of where the objects & pronouns go in a valid sentence, but doesn't devolve into complete nonsense.
    – Ace Frahm
    Sep 18, 2013 at 15:33
  • There are almost 20 000 000 Google hits for 'think on it'. Filtering out "shadows" and "Put our heads together" still leaves 15.6m. Both bamboo and I are agreed that it is not uncommon in the UK. The M-H reference above does not label it 'obsolete', 'archaic' or even 'colloquial' . I agree that it has an old-fashioned flavour, but your 'not strictly correct' tag is not correct. Sep 18, 2013 at 16:02
  • Oh brother. There's a huge difference between what a computer will try to satisfy you with if you search for a "noun preposition pronoun" which isn't even a complete sentence, versus what a native speaker will think of you if you actually try to use it on them.
    – Ace Frahm
    Sep 19, 2013 at 18:30
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    I'm a native speaker, as is bamboo, and we don't think it's 'not strictly correct'. Don't we count? Don't bamboo's 'we' count? Don't the people that the 'McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs' people canvassed count? Just Ace's inner circle? The unsubstantiated claims made by self-appointed experts do not do much for the credibility of this site. I haven't even seen a cautionary usage note for the expression 'think on'. Sep 20, 2013 at 9:30

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