It might sound like a newbie question, but...

Today on my English lessons I argued with the teacher whether you can say 'think in' or not. For me it's obvious that you can (there's even a book 'Thinking in Java'), but now I have to find it in a reliable source (I don't even know what is a reliable source, since she said that oxford's internet dictionary is not one).

Thanks in advance.

  • Would Kings college's programme Let's Think in English convince your teacher? – mplungjan Feb 27 '14 at 13:06
  • I really must speak to my son, who is a PhD student in neuroscience about this. But what I suspect he will say is 'Before you can address that you really need to be clear about what you mean by 'think'. Are you clear about what you mean by 'think'? – WS2 Feb 27 '14 at 13:50
  • @WS2 It doesn't even matter as she said: 'you can never use think in'. – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 14:20
  • @Fiodor What I am saying is that before you can even address this question you need to have some understanding of what is going on neuroscientifically when you 'think'. This is a question, not for a linguist but for a neuroscientist or psychologist. – WS2 Apr 1 '14 at 23:09

"Thinking in" is certainly commonly used when talking about languages.

Apart from your Java example (Java is a language), I am not sure if you are restricting this to languages.

I would generally agree with your teacher when you want to think in something that is not a language.

Well, one possibility is when in (something) describes the situation in which you are while you are thinking, but that is a completely different construct from "Think in German" or "Think in Java".

Leave me alone, I want to think in peace.

I would not think in table, or think in love, or think in writing.

Actually, while browsing, I am finding more and more things you can think in.

If your teacher is so stubborn that she want a dictionary, ask her why she believes her English would be better than that of

Prof Terry Barker, Founder of the Cambridge Trust for New Thinking in Economics, Chairman of Cambridge Econometrics, and Departmental Senior Fellow in the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge

There are so many examples of "thinking in" by different native speakers of English, including academics, that I would not take anybody seriously who says "thinking in" is always wrong.

  • Well... She said that you can't say 'think in' at all, but the argument started with '[...]think in a different way'. – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 12:38
  • "Think in a different way, think in terms of [..], "Where do you think the phone is? - I think in the drawer", the possibilities are endless. – oerkelens Feb 27 '14 at 12:44
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    If she wants dictionaries, is Oxford good enough? (look at "in a particular way"). – oerkelens Feb 27 '14 at 12:51
  • I don't want to sound like a stubborn kid, but for her it is not, because it is on the internet (doesn't matter if it is Oxford's official webpage or not -.-). Just tell me what type of dictionaries contains this and I will just go to a library and find one. – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 12:54
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    I would certainly assume that if it is in the OALD, you will most likely find it in the OED. And if that is not good enough for her, you may want to switch teacher ;) (And she is the stubborn kid, not you :) ) – oerkelens Feb 27 '14 at 12:56
  • American English is my native language although I often think in German.

update: You can find many English books that not only contain "think in" in the text, they even contain it in the title! link

Additionally, here is an N-gram graph for "think" followed by a preposition. You can see that in edited and published works, "think in" is even more common than "think if."

enter image description here

  • Thanks, but where can I find a 'proof' that it is correct? She won't accept it unless I find it somewhere (but not on the Internet). – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 12:33
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    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If a newspaper uses it, is that enough? There are plenty of other examples of usage on google. – oerkelens Feb 27 '14 at 12:39
  • For me it is, but unfortunately she only accepts dictionaries. – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 12:41
  • Thank you very much. I really appreciate you effort, but once again: she only accepts dictionaries (not Internet ones) :<. Could you at least tell me what type of dictionary contains expressions like this (I'm not native English, so I don't really know)? – Fiodor Feb 27 '14 at 12:50

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