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The following verb in sentence 1 strikes me as strange when it has the same meaning as in sentences 2 and 3 below.

  1. He considers that blue cheese is delicious.

  2. He thinks that blue cheese is delicious.

  3. He believes that blue cheese is delicious.

Is sentence 1 acceptable? Is it maybe acceptable in British English but not in American English?

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    No, sentence 1 is not acceptable. It has to be “He considers blue cheese delicious”.
    – tchrist
    Nov 6 '12 at 3:27
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Acceptable is a loaded term.

Like @tchrist, I would not use sentence 1 in the form proposed. I would probably change it to "He finds blue cheese delicious." on the grounds of euphony.

But there is a spectrum of reactions from that sounds clumsy to that breaches several principles of grammar and syntax. Where you place "acceptable" within that span is obviously a very personal opinion. It is probably related to whether you consider "has to be" an acceptable replacement for "must be".

2

This one gets a bit complicated. Consider

  1. He considers blue cheese to be delicious. (618)

  2. He thinks blue cheese to be delicious. (8)

  3. He believes blue cheese to be delicious. (2130)

(OP's "blue cheese" was a bit too unusual to deliver a reasonable number of hits in Google Books, so I got the usage figures above by substituting "you").

As per the first link above, if you think something [to be true], that can often imply the thing is only (or even, axiomatically) true by virtue of your opinion. But if you believe it [to be true], your opinion has no effect on the truth of the thing itself.

So - if you think blue cheese is delicious, you're saying you like it. If you believe it's delicious, you're saying it's inherently delicious, so everyone else should like it too.

As the usage figures show, consider falls somewhere somewhere between think and believe in terms of how much your opinion thus expressed can affect the facts (mostly it can't).

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    "He believes that blue cheese is delicious" can also mean that he has never tasted it, but thinks it might be.
    – Mr Lister
    Nov 6 '12 at 7:18
  • @Mr Lister: I think that implication is pretty much inherent in the contrast I make above. If he thinks it's delicious, that could be a matter of personal taste - his evaluation can't be "proved" right or wrong. But if he believes so, this may be on the flimsiest of evidence (perhaps he's never even seen blue cheese, but he trusts the judgement of a friend who says it's really good). Of course, there are many other contexts where the verbs are effectively equivalent. And yet more contexts where other distinctions can be made (but I think mine is the most significant, obviously! :) Nov 6 '12 at 13:35
  • Generally, "think" is stronger than "believe", except when talking about things we normally expect people to have strong beliefs about. If you say someone "believes" something, it suggests something weaker than knowledge. There's a continuum of words like this: doubt, suspect, believe, think, know. Nov 7 '12 at 0:27
  • @David Schwartz: I don't see "strength" as a relevant factor in our aversion to thinking [noun] to be [adjective], and whatever that tells us about the difference between thinking and believing. And I'm not automatically inclined to rate thinking as stronger in general. For example, it's quite possible to say: "You're really just a closet agnostic! You might think God exists, but you don't really believe in Him like I do!". IMHO, believe is often closer to know than think is. Nov 7 '12 at 1:01
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When I hear the the phrase "X considers Y," I tend to think it usually means something closer to "ponders." If it were phrased in a more passive voice, e.g. "X is considered Y by Z," it would sound more like the idea the other sentences are trying to get across.

Then again, "He considers blue cheese to be delicious" sounds fine to me, so it might just be that "considers that" is a bizarre-sounding way to format it.

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  • What I'm trying to say is that, although it's correct, it comes across as "He ponders the idea that blue cheese is delicious."
    – Jacob
    Nov 6 '12 at 3:33
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    I think this is wide of the mark. It's true "consider" can mean ponder, muse upon, but in OP's specific context that wouldn't be a normal interpretation. You'd probably have to say something like "He considers the proposition that blue cheese might be delicious" to get the idea across. Nov 6 '12 at 13:38

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