[i] She thinks of herself as a poet. (Collins #7)
[ii] People are thinking of her for president. (Webster’s, think of #2.b)
[iii] What do you think of the film? (Cambridge)

It seems like verb think licenses two consecutive prepositional phrases [PP] as in [i] and [ii]. I’ve not yet found these constructions: ‘think + PP + Noun phrase’ or ‘think + PP + adjective phrase’. So I wonder if ‘what’ preposed from after ‘the film’ in [iii] would replace PP. Does what really replace PP, or is there any proper account?

  • For [iii] "You think [great things] of the film"; "You think [highly] of the film". Also, there's "She thinks bad thoughts most of the time"; "She thinks all the time". – F.E. Dec 29 '13 at 6:43

Think, unless it's the intransitive 'display cognition' sense of Rodin's The Thinker,
is normally transitive, and its normal object is a complement clause describing the thought.

  • He thinks that the earth is flat. (tensed complement with that complementizer)
  • He never thought to get a permanent visa. (infinitive complement with Equi)

Nouns are ungrammatical as objects for think, as are pronouns, unless they refer to a clause

  • *He thinks the President/her/that one/somebody.
  • He thinks it, whether he admits it or not.

When a clause is not available, think can use prepositions and variant complement types
to target specific object types and specific thinking types

  • I'm thinking of one of Shakespeare's comedies. ('have in mind')
  • I'm thinking of/about selling the motorcycle. ('consider V-ing; plan (on) V-ing')
  • I'm thinking my way around the obstacle. ('consider; ponder; analyze')
  • I think of him as my uncle. ('consider as')

Of the three example sentences,

(i) She thinks of herself as a poet is a 'consider as' construction.
(ii) People are thinking of her for president is a 'consider V-ing' construction.
(iii) What do you think of the film? is a 'consider as' construction, too.
  What do you think of the film? is the question from You think of the film (as/in) what way.

  • Would you class a cognate object (He had been thinking dark thoughts of late) as an exception to the above? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '13 at 6:14
  • It's yet another construction; I'm not trying to be definitive here. Seems to be the same kind of VP extension as give a push/shove, have a swim/drink, only with a cognate object NP instead of a small verb. – John Lawler Dec 29 '13 at 6:17
  • 1
    And your "People are thinking of her for president is a 'consider V-ing' construction." Via "People are thinking of making her president"? – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '13 at 6:33
  • @JohnLawler, Could I get to the point that yours is saying pronoun ‘what’ has adverbial/prepositional meaning in [iii]? Then can we say ‘how do you think of the film’? – Listenever Dec 29 '13 at 6:49
  • 1
    @Listenever: No, you can't say that. The idiom is What do you think of X?, not How. How is used strictly for means and manner; it's not a general oblique pronoun. How do you think he'll do it? – John Lawler Dec 29 '13 at 16:59

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