Dictionary lists out the following meanings and usages of the word "contemplate"

Verb 1. If you contemplate an action, you think about whether to do it or not.
Verb 2: If you contemplate an idea or subject, you think about it carefully for a long time.
Verb 3: If you contemplate something or someone, you look at them for a long time.
He contemplated his hands, still frowning.

contemplation UNCOUNTABLE NOUN He was lost in the contemplation of the landscape for a while.

I came across in a script, where the writer uses the word contemplate to convey the meaning "with thoughts about someone"

She deeply contemplated her dying brother. (this brother is not before her. He is far away in a different city. She leaves immediately to see him after this)

Is it right to use this word in this particular context? From what I understand from the dictionary, when you contemplate someone, you actually look at them for a long time.

  • While examples of 'contemplated her brother' {-"brother's"} do occur on the internet, they are few. A sentient being is rare as the referent of a direct object for 'contemplate'. Better avoided. Apr 7, 2021 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


The word contemplated is not used correctly in the following sentence:

She deeply contemplated her dying brother.

If her brother had died, she could contemplate her brother's death. That would mean she thought deeply about what his death meant.

Although wordy, the sentence could also read

She deeply contemplated the fact that her brother was dying.

Personally, I steer clear of "the fact that" habit, so a better version of the sentence could go

She deeply contemplated the inevitability of her brother's death.


She deeply contemplated her brother's dying.

In other words, she thought deeply about the process of dying that her brother was experiencing and the effect it was having on her and him.

In short, a person cannot deeply contemplate a person. On the other hand, a person can contemplate an aspect of a person, or something a person has done or said. That's about as technical, grammatically, as I can get.

  • Thank you very much for the explanation. In that case, when someone says something like, "I contemplate visiting France" what do they actually mean? Are they thinking of visiting France or are they thinking whether to go to France (verb 1 meaning) ?
    – Ammu
    Apr 15, 2021 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Ammu: To contemplate taking a trip, a person could either be anticipating a trip they've already made arrangements for, or a trip they are thinking about taking but have yet to make arrangements or reservations for. Apr 16, 2021 at 12:57

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