I recently had an argument with a friend around the question "have you ever thought about something?" The question was asked in the context of exploring some life possibilities, such as buying a sports car or moving to a different country. The disagreement was around whether an affirmative answer to the question bears the hidden meaning that the something being considered is something that the person answering actively wants.

To give an example: when asked "have you ever thought about moving to Sweden?", if a person answers in the affirmative, which of the following two meanings best describes their answer?

  • They consider moving to Sweden a practical possibility, and they actually want to do so in the future.
  • The thought has crossed their mind, but nothing can be inferred about whether they want or plan to move to Sweden in the future.

Assume the subject is not currently living in Sweden :)

Question update: Some of you answered that the meaning depends on other factors, such as tone of voice, body language, context, etc. As I said in a comment, to the purposes of this question, ignore such secondary conversational artifacts. They can always extend the range of meaning of any sentence or word, from the "proper" sense, to the complete opposite, such as when being sarcastic (e.g. "Would you like to go to Sweden?" "Yeah, right...") Consequently, the disclaimer "it depends on the tone of voice" can probably be applied to most answers on this site.

To put it another way: assume you read the text, with minimal context. What's the meaning then?

  • 2
    The second one of course. The question only talks of "thinking@ of something.
    – Mou某
    Jun 14, 2014 at 11:19
  • Without doubt, the second one. Have I ever thought about robbing a bank? Yes! Have i ever thought about faking my death and starting again? Yes! Have I ever thought about telling my boss what i really think of him? Yes! All of these things have come to mind, I could do any of these things, but am I going to do any of these things? Who knows ;) Sep 20, 2023 at 18:31
  • worth considering have you ever thought about... is also a classic rebuke. ie When auditioning for an acting role I was asked have you ever thought about teaching as a career? Sep 20, 2023 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


Linguistically, only the second form is directly inferrable from the question.


It depends on the context, and whether or not the 'thing' being considered is practical and feasible. If it's neither, then it's an abstract concept - which can still be considered but in a conceptual form.

  • Assume the thing is feasible. I edited the question, now it is clearer than before. Actually before I think I was asking the wrong thing :)
    – Dan Nestor
    Jun 14, 2014 at 8:56
  • In which case they consider the 'thing' practical, but it's not possible to directly infer that they intend to carry it out. So the first section of the first statement holds true, but not necessarily the second. The second statement is incorrect, as an affirmative response infers that they at least have considered it. Jun 14, 2014 at 8:58
  • Wouldn't they considering it still be within the bounds of the second statement?
    – Dan Nestor
    Jun 14, 2014 at 9:01
  • Yep, you're right. I missed the bit about 'the thought has crossed their mind'. In which case the second statement also hold true. Jun 14, 2014 at 9:07
  • The context that an informed answer here depends on includes the conversation / lack of it before the prompt "Have you ever thought about moving to Sweden?", which will determine whether the question is 'out of the blue' or not. Jun 14, 2014 at 9:44

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