There is a question about 'I guess' and one answer is comparing 'I guess', and 'I would say'.

  • I would say characterizes what follows as a personal opinion or judgment: From what I know of him I would say he is coming.

  • I guess characterizes what follows as a conjecture or inference: Well, if he were coming he'd be here by now, so I guess he's not coming.

My question is I am bored of 'I think' every time I wanna tell my idea, so can I use 'I would say' instead of it? As an non-native English speaker, I feel 'I would say' is more aggressive than 'I think', is that true?

  • It's not more aggressive, it would all depend on context. It's easy to use either of them in a variety of ways - aggressive/helpful/timid. Take your pick.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:58
  • Also related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/32697/…
    – MrHen
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 15:42
  • 1
    As Descartes would say, "I would say therefore I am".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 20:38
  • I can think of at least one exception: "If my religious mother in law were to ask me when my wife and me first had sex, I would say "on our honeymoon", even though we had sex on the first date." What you would say is not always what you truly think (nor what is the actual truth)
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:27

3 Answers 3


They're not always interchangeable.

In addition to the point made by Sven Yargs, the two expressions also base themselves on different evidence in some cases:

If your statement is meant to indicate that you are just freely conjecturing and that you are not sure whether your conjecturing is correct or not, use I think:

— Where is your brother?
— Um, not sure… I think he's in the garden.

If your intention is rather to indicate that you are weighing the possible options against each other and choosing the one that seems most likely to you based on what information you have available, you can use I’d say or I think quite interchangeably:

— Where's your brother?
— Um, not sure… he said he was going out to get some weed killer, pick some things up at dad’s place, and then get rid of some of that hemlock out the back, but that was a while ago, so he should be back. Yeah, I'd say he's probably in the garden now.

I’d say in this scenario indicates that you're making your own reasonable assumption with some kind of logical basis, rather than just saying whatever you happen to think of first.

(Naturally, they are not interchangeable in many other contexts as well: “I think about this often” cannot be replaced by “I’d say about this often”, which doesn’t make any sense at all; and “I think, therefore I am” should only be changed to “I’d say, therefore I am” if you wish to be hunted down and brutally murdered by Descartes’ ghost.)

  • Thanks Janus. So, maybe should post as another question, when I wanna say 'I think' to state my opinion of the topic, what else can I use?
    – watermelon
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 16:44

"I would say" almost always expresses tentativeness about what follows, either due to lack of definite knowledge or a desire to avoid offending/dominating/etc.

"I think" is a more positive statement, one that definitely expresses your own personal perspective, while allowing for other points of view.

Neither makes a claim of absolute, objective truth about what follows, but "I think" comes closer.


Viewed objectively, "I would say" implies the existence of an unstated conditional basis, which may or may not be satisfied, for saying whatever is being said. It amounts to saying "I would say X if Condition Y were satisfied," or perhaps "If I were to accept the information that I currently possess as valid and complete, I would say X." Either way, to me—and I suspect to many other people who habitually use the "I would say" formulation—the wording sounds more tentative (and less aggressive) than flatly saying "I think X."

Subjectively, however, "I would say" is now so common and is usually intended so unconditionally that it really amounts to an alternative way of saying "I think," which is precisely what you want.

My only word of caution here is that some few readers may find use of a fundamentally artificial conditional annoying. To my knowledge, the most famous critic of replacing "I think" with "I would say" is George Eliot, who considered the phrase coy and dishonest. I'll try to find the letter or essay where she condemns this usage, and (if I find it) complete this answer with that quotation. I vividly remember her hostility on this point because I use "I would say" so often—and I hate to think that George Eliot would despise my writing.

Follow-up: Here's the quotation from George Eliot. It appears in A. S. Byatt's introduction to George Eliot: Selected Essays, Poems and Other Writings (1990). I include Byatt's contextual remarks as well:

She [Eliot] was not herself afraid of clear distinct statements. There is a splendid letter [circa 1851] from her to Chapman [the titular editor of the Westminster Review, though Eliot did most of the actual editing], criticizing his style, again on grounds of illogic and inaccuracy. 'I have a logical objection to the phrases "it would seem", "it would appear", "we would remark". Would — under what condition? The real meaning is — it does seem, it does appear, we do remark. These phrases are rarely found in good writers, and ought never to be found.' As editor and essayist, she kept her own rules.

Of course, most writers have no wish to satisfy George Eliot or indeed to include her in their imagined audience of readers at all. But I think she is a reader worth having, if you can meet her demands without betraying your own voice.

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