In English, a subjective statement or a likewise question is often introduced by either of these phrases:

  • I reckon [that] … – Do you reckon [that] …? (dialectal)
  • I think [that] … – Do you think [that] …?
  • I believe [that] … – Do you believe [that] …?
  • I feel [that] … – Do you feel [that] …?

The first three have been dealt with in Are there any differences between "I believe" vs "I think" vs "I reckon"? already, but feel hasn’t been covered as far as I can tell. To me, I think is the strongest statement about the validity of what follows, but I believe can imply at least as strong an endorsement. When I hear or see I feel introducing a testable statement it leaves me with the impression that the individual uttering it neither has the commitment shown by I believe nor the expertise required for I think and lacks the confidence of either.

Am I right to do so or do most native speakers use think, believe and feel interchangeably in a truly synonymous fashion? What are the reasons to choose one over the other then, different levels of politeness perhaps or just personal habits?

  • 3
    I think/believe/feel that you are over-analyzing things. (All my reckoning abilities died a long time ago.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:03
  • This is primarily opinion based, however as I see it, in order of strength of convictions: I believe, I think, I feel. You haven't included "it seems to me." Nov 2, 2015 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


This probably comes under the category of pragmatic linguistics. It is certainly very important in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

People perceive the world via different modalities (vision, sound, feeling etc.).

In NLP it is asserted that a person's speech and writing will betray their dominant modality (modalities). Thus a person who is very visual (perhaps an artist) is likely to use visual terminology, e.g. instead of saying "I understand what you are saying" a visual person might say "I see what you mean", a musician might perhaps say "That sounds correct" and a sculptor could say, "I have a feeling you are right."

If you subscribe to this view then which a person chooses is personal to them. For that reason there is no objective way to compare such expressions except in the context of the individual who is using them.

Representational systems (NLP)

Representational systems (also known as sensory modalities and abbreviated to VAKOG or known as the 4-tuple) is a postulated model from neuro-linguistic programming regarding how the human mind supposedly processes and stores information. The central idea of this model is that experience is represented in the mind in sensorial terms ... Bandler and Grinder claim that each person has a "most highly valued" (now commonly termed preferred) representational system in which they are more able to vividly create an experience (in their mind) in terms of that representational system, tend to use that representational system more often than the others, and have more distinctions available in that representation system than the others.[4] So for example a person that most highly values their visual representation system is able to easily and vividly visualise things and has a tendency to do so in preference to creating or recreating an experience in terms of the other representational system.


"I feel" means just that: something or someone has caused me to feel happy, or anxious, or resigned, etc.

"I believe" means that I accept as something as true without proof, be it your word, or religion, or a salesman's unwritten promises, or that I'll become a rock star.

"I think" means I apply rational processes to analyze information, its sources, its applications, its consequences, etc. From this process I might come to form an opinion. With sufficient evidence or proof, I might come to "know."

It makes me a bit nuts when people use these words interchangeablely; it lacks clarity. And if I wanted your feelings about something, I wouldn't have requested your thoughts.

"I reckon" means I calculate something. Perhaps I calculate a navigational course by means of dead reckoning, or reckon accounts. And in several regional dialects it is used synonymously with I think, I calculate, or I figure.

  • 6
    This would be an acceptable explanation in an ESL classroom, but is hardly convincing on EL&U. Whatever people believe about the 'proper' use of words has little to do with their actual use. Please support your claims with authoritative references, examples of usage, etc.
    – DW256
    Aug 5, 2020 at 0:33
  • Feel in the sense that is relevant here doesn't stand for happiness, anxiety, etc.; one can believe something with or without proof; thinking is not always rational.
    – jsw29
    Aug 30, 2020 at 21:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.