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To my knowledge, both of them imply that someone thinks of something in a short time, but is there any difference between them? For example

It never crosses my mind that he is lying to me.

It never crosses my mind that we might lose.

I think using enter my mind here is fine.

It never enters my mind that he is lying to me.

It never enters my mind that we might lose.

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  • Practically speaking, they mean the same thing. There may be subtle differences in the shades of meaning in certain contexts, but I can't think of any examples.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 15, 2016 at 12:15
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    BTW, the idiomatic usage (at least in the US) when speaking in the present voice is past tense: crossed or entered.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 15, 2016 at 12:18
  • @Hot Licks: I can't see what you mean. Surely no-one uses crossed in, say, When I'm playing poker, it never crosses my mind that I might lose. Oct 15, 2016 at 15:59
  • @FumbleFingers - But one would say "It never crossed my mind that you would object to my comment."
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 15, 2016 at 17:39
  • @Hot Licks: Yes, but although you might very well says something like that immediately after the other person has in fact objected (so it has high relevance to the present moment), the reality is that you're referring back to the past (before you realised, back when you didn't think of that possibility). Oct 15, 2016 at 17:46

2 Answers 2

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The two verbs 'to cross' an 'to enter' are the key here:

v.tr.
1. To go or extend across; pass from one side of to the other: crossed the room to greet us

(Free Dictionary)

The connotations of cross are to go in and then out of, in your case, one's mind. Compare this to enter:

v.tr.
1. To come or go into: The train entered the tunnel.

(Free Dictionary)

Enter simply denotes the going in to one's mind and has no such connotation of it being fleeting.

Overall, the difference in verb choice makes crossing one's mind into just a brief thought - it comes and then goes - whethers enter, just means that a thought has gone into your mind but not out again.

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    I think @Hot Licks is right to say that in most contexts they're pretty much interchangeable, but I agree with you that sometimes there can be a difference in that thoughts which enter your mind might be more likely to stay within your conscious awareness than thoughts which merely cross your mind. But I also think that "solutions" are more likely to cross, whereas "unwelcome thoughts" are more likely to enter. Arguably you won't forget the former if they do occur to you, but actually they're both more likely to occur in negated contexts, so "duration" doesn't really apply. Oct 15, 2016 at 16:09
  • @FumbleFingers That sounds about right, could you suggest an edit that covers that? Oct 15, 2016 at 16:11
  • My first attempt to gather supporting evidence from Google Books reveals that it crossed my mind that... is apparently twice as common as the negated it never crossed my mind that... On the other hand, negated it never entered my mind that... is four times more common that the non-negated version. I'm not quite sure where that leaves us. Oct 15, 2016 at 16:20
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They are interchangeable.

By the way, your second example works better than your first. It's kind of complicated. I personally (as a Spanish speaker) would go into a whole thing about the subjunctive. Maybe someone else would have a different way of explaining it. I will write it up as a question for the grammar experts to have some fun with.

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