Words are marvelous. They are like small, colorful origami pieces. Each word has a different shade of meaning, and you can put them together to create an infinite variety of beautiful and nuanced sentences. The more words you have under your control, the more refined your language will become.
However, venturing beyond the words that you're comfortable with is pretty tough, especially when those words are so common. For example, you may think you know 考える, but do you know many of its synonyms? Can you feel the nuance of each alternative and use them with precision in your own Japanese?
If the answer is "no," you’re in the right place! This article will provide you with an array of synonyms for 考える, and help you move beyond using the same word over and over again. Even after reading this article, you may still choose the wrong word in your own language use, but don't fret! If that happens, just come back to this thesaurus and hunt for the right word. Eventually you'll take it all in and, in the process, you'll enrich many aspects of your thinking in Japanese.
- What Is 考える?
- Any Thoughts On 考える?
Prerequisites: This article assumes you already know hiragana and katakana. If you need to brush up, have a look at our Ultimate Hiragana Guide and Ultimate Katakana Guide. Learners who just learned the Japanese word 考える can enjoy reading this article, but if you don't know the difference between 思う and 考える, we recommend you check out this article first.
What Is 考える?
First of all, what is 考える? It’s one of the ways the English word “think” can be translated into Japanese, but you'd be tricking yourself if you thought that they mean the exact same thing. 考える is specifically used for thinking that is "active." What do we mean by that?
When you 考える, you are not indulging in aimless thought. You are actively thinking, intellectually and logically toward a conclusion.
Simply put, 考える requires your brain to work. When you 考える, you are not indulging in aimless thought. You are actively thinking, intellectually and logically toward a conclusion. For the spontaneous kind of thinking that naturally pops up in your mind, Japanese has another word: 思う.
So 考える implies that you’re thinking with a purpose, and the same is true of its alternatives. Knowing these alternative words will help you to express yourself in Japanese with added precison and eloquence, and ensure that you can hit the right register in more formal contexts.
There are, however, a lot of alternatives. So to get our thoughts in order, we divided the words up into six different categories. In each section, we’ll explain the nuance for each word and the circumstances in which they’re used. We'll also provide example sentences and compare each word with 考える.
All right, it's time to stop thinking about thinking and get our hands dirty. Let's move onto the first type!
How do you say "ponder" or “think carefully” in Japanese? You can use 考える with an adverb like よく or しっかり (both meaning "carefully") but you can also convey a similar meaning using other words, such as 熟考する, 熟慮する, 沈思黙考する, and 知恵を 絞る. So how are they different? Let’s find out!
熟考する is a word used for careful consideration or the pondering of something, usually for a long period of time. The kanji 熟 by itself means “ripen,” so 熟考 carries the nuance that you meticulously think about something while taking your time until your thought fully ripens. The word is more formal than 考える and usually used in descriptive writing. Let's see how it works in a sentence compared with 考える.
- The detective pondered for three days and uncovered the truth of the toilet incident.
- The detective thought for three days and uncovered the truth of the toilet incident.
In the above examples, we know that it took the detective three days to solve the mystery. The use of 熟考する pairs nicely with this, since it suggests that he pondered very carefully and seriously until his thoughts "ripened." On the other hand, 考える lacks such detail and can only convey the fact that the detective thought about the toilet incident. Without the mention of 三日 (for three days), we'd have no clue just how long and hard he thought about it.
熟慮する is the more formal version of 熟考する, and also refers to long, careful consideration. It also uses the kanji 熟 (ripen) but with the more complex kanji 慮 (consider) instead of the simple 考 (think). You may still see this word in writing alongside equally stuffy expressions. It's not as common as 熟考する, but here's one example.
- We need to deliberate on the merit of our company.
- We need to think about the merit of our company.
The sentence with 熟慮する sounds more solemn than the one with 考える due to the difference in formality level. Also, 熟慮する can specify your way of thinking, in this case suggesting that you're serious about everyone taking the time to carefully consider the merit of the company. 考える, however, doesn't convey the extent to which everyone should think about something.
沈思黙考する is a four character expression (or 四字熟語) that consists of: 沈 (sink), 思 (think), 黙 (in silence), and 考 (think). As these kanji suggest, it is used to express that someone is deep in thought without saying a word. Although this isn't a common expression, you may still come across it in formal descriptive contexts. The first two kanji, 沈思, can be dropped, leaving us with 黙考する (think silently). So, how do 沈思黙考する and 考える work in a sentence?
- The prime minister didn’t respond right away and thought about it silently for some time.
- The prime minister didn’t respond right away and thought about it.
While 考えた doesn't provide any details about the manner of thinking, 沈思黙考した suggests that the prime minister took his time and deeply and silently thought about the question he was asked. Reading this conjures up the image of a prime minister looking as though he's in a meditative state, very calm and deep in thought.
知恵を 絞る is an idiom. The word 知恵 means “wisdom” and 絞る means “wring out,” so it literally means “wring wisdom out.” This expression is used for thinking hard with strenuous effort, as if you're squeezing the wisdom out of your brain. There's another, similar expression, 頭を絞る, which means "to rack one's brain." Each expression can be used in any situation, in both spoken and written language. However, it may sound a little old-fashioned in speaking. All right, let's see how this one works in a sentence.
- We racked our brains, but we couldn’t figure it out.
- We thought about it together, but we couldn’t figure it out.
The first example with 知恵を絞る is more expressive and tells you that everyone thought hard to come up with various potential solutions, but they just didn't have any luck. The second one with 考える only tells you that everybody thought about it, but it doesn't express how hard they worked.
Next let's look at words for "inspecting," which are 検討する, 吟味する, 考慮する, and 慮る. Although this type of thinking can involve "pondering," the words listed here generally imply not only consideration but also a detailed inspection or a close examination.
検討する consists of two kanji: 検 (examine) and 討 (chastise). As the kanji suggest, it's used for shrewdly examining something in detail to determine what the thing is and if it's good or not. It’s often used in a business context where you want to take your time to decide something, either by yourself or through discussion with others.
- As for this product, let me examine it a little more.
- As for this product, let me think a little more.
The first example with 検討する sounds like you are going to do some research and discuss to see if the product is actually a good deal or not. The second one with 考える only conveys that you're going to think about it and it's not clear if you're going to take any action before making a decision. In fact, 考えさせてください is often used as a nicer way to say "no."
吟味する is used for examining something closely to make a good selection out of multiple choices. It can also be used to mean "weigh one's words" (because it's like carefully selecting words out of all the word choices). The kanji are 吟 (recital) and 味 (taste), and the word originally meant "appreciate Japanese poetry," so it still carries the nuance you are making a selection in a manner that shows your good taste or judgment. Thus, 吟味する is commonly used in descriptive writing.
- We made a decision after carefully examining its content.
- We made a decision after carefully thinking about its content.
The first sentence with 吟味する informs you that there were multiple things to consider to make a decision, and someone examined all the options carefully while utilizing their knowledge to make a proper judgment. 考える with しっかり (carefully) still expresses that it was a well-thought-out decision, but it doesn't convey how minutely the content was examined.
考慮する uses the kanji 考 (think) and 慮 (consideration), and it's used for giving something careful consideration while examining various factors or taking a specific factor into account. It’s used in a wide range of formal situations where an individual or an organization has to make a reasonable decision. Now, what is the difference between 考慮する and 考える?
- All things considered, the plan seemed to be difficult to realize.
- Thinking about everything, the plan seemed to be difficult to realize.
Compared to 考える, 考慮する is more formal and stiff and it sounds like the thought process was also formally or professionally done. Apart from that, there isn't much difference in nuance between them. In fact, they can be interchangeable in many contexts.
考慮 also pops up in 〜を考慮に入れる, an expression that means “take 〜 into consideration.”
- Taking it all into consideration, the plan seemed to be difficult to realize.
With the kanji 慮 (consideration), 慮る is used for considering the circumstances surrounding something, such as possible outcomes or people's feelings, rather than considering the "something" itself. The word is quite formal and mostly used in writing but you may also hear it in a formal speech, for example when someone is publicly expressing condolences.
- Considering my grandmother's feelings, we couldn't suggest a renovation.
- Thinking about my grandmother's feelings, we couldn't suggest a renovation.
Since 慮る is formal, the first example sounds more literary and descriptive like a sentence in a novel. The second sentence using 考える is more common and can be used in conversation or in writing that doesn't use stiff expressions. In other words, 慮る is generally not suitable in everyday use.
In this section, we are going to check out words for reasoning or logical thinking. To specify such meanings with 考える, you need the aid of other words such as 道理的に (reasonably) or 論理的に (logically) but now you can learn the words specifically for that, which are 考察する, 分析する, and 判断する. Now let’s see how they work.
Although the kanji 考 (think) and 察 (guess) by themselves don't logically convey the reasonability behind the word, 考察する means to study and examine in order to make something clear, or to prove or define with logical reasoning. So it’s commonly used in an academic or scientific research journals or textbooks.
- We examined why this happens from the perspective of brain science.
- We thought about why this happens from the perspective of brain science.
The first example using 考察する sounds formal and shows that the thinking was done scientifically or professionally with logical reasoning. It also suggests that some kind of action was performed alongside the thinking, such as research activities that allowed them to think further about the issue. The second example, on the other hand, just shows that they thought about it.
As the kanji 分 (part) and 析 (analysis) logically suggest, 分析する simply means to analyze and so the word can be used in any situation. It's not exactly a synonym of 考える, but sometimes 分析する can replace 考える to convey the situation more clearly and professionally.
- I’m currently analyzing the cause of the problem.
- I’m currently thinking about the cause of the problem.
By using 分析する, you can explain you are examining the cause of a problem through analysis, not just thinking. Thus, the first sentence sounds more precise and professional compared to the one with 考える.
判断する is a widely used word. The kanji used are 判 (judge) and 断 (cut off), and it can be translated in many ways, including "judge," "decide", "conclude" or "interpret." Although 判断する can be instantaneous, it often implies that there was a logical process of forming an opinion, decision, or conclusion.
- We concluded that this business involves too much risk.
- We thought that this business involves too much risk.
In the above example, 判断する suggests that you weighed up the information and made a decision based on whether you deemed that information to be positive or not. It sounds more determined and professional than 考える. Perhaps you had some data or information to back up your decision. This sort of information is often called 判断材料 (judgment material).
Next, we'rre going to look at the words for making a plan or a plot that involves thinking. That is, 企画する, 構想する, 企む, 企てる, and 目論む.
As the kanji 企 (plan) and 画 (drawing) suggest, 企画する is used to make, organize, or arrange a plan, event, or project. The word is quite common, and is used for many occasions, but you’ll hear it a lot in business settings. In fact, a “business proposal” is usually called 企画書.
- Who planned this project?
- Who thought of this project?
The one with 企画する carries the nuance that the project was planned in a very organized way, as if you laid out the purpose and the details of the plan as a proposal and submitted it to your boss. On the other hand, if you use 考える, the project might still be a very rough plan.
With the kanji 構 (set up) and 想 (concept), 構想する means to assemble your thoughts in order to plan or design something. It was originally used for making a design and conception for artwork, but now its use has been expanded to design a machine, or even to envision a project. It typically refers to larger scale planning than our previous word, 企画する. The word is quite formal and used in formal writing and speech.
- That company is envisioning the business for self-driving cars.
- That company is thinking about the business for self-driving cars.
The first example with 構想する sounds like the company has a big picture and plan for the self-driving car business, whereas the second example only conveys that the company is thinking about it, which doesn't give us any clues as to whether it's drawing a blueprint or not.
With the kanji 企 (plan), 企む means "plot", "conspire", or "scheme," and it's used to make secret plans. The plan can be as insignificant as a silly and harmless trick or prank, but it can also be a harmful or unlawful act. The word can be used in both casual and formal settings.
- We devised a prank to put wasabi on Cameron’s burger.
- We thought of a prank to put wasabi on Cameron’s burger.
The one with 企む carries the nuance you intentionally and playfully plotted the wasabi prank. On the other hand, the one with 考える sounds neutral and it could be just an idea without an actual plan.
Also with the kanji 企 (plan), 企てる means to secretly plan or plot and is very similar to 企む. In fact, they are often interchangeable, but 企てる can be used when secretly planning a good thing as well, like a surprise birthday party. However, this "good" use is less common than the more "devious" meaning. The word can be used in casual settings, but it’s mostly used in formal settings.
- They’re plotting a coup.
- They’re thinking about a coup.
The sentence with 企てる carries the nuance that there is a concrete plan for the coup already, but the one with 考える only tells you that they are thinking about it, and you don't know if they have a plan or not.
Although the kanji 目 (eye) and 論 (theory) don't tell us this word's meaning explicitly, 目論む is another word that means "plan", "plot", or "scheme". It’s commonly used for negative planning, but can also be used for good plans, like expanding a business. In this case, it often carries the nuance of making some ambitious or challenging plans to gain an advantage over a rival.
- I heard that the company is planning to expand their business overseas.
- I heard that the company is thinking of expanding their business overseas.
In the above example, the first one with 目論む is more descriptive and adds the perspective of the speaker who thinks the company is ambitiously planning to expand their business overseas. The one with 考える neutrally tells you that the company is thinking about it.
There are many words for estimating what will happen in the future, predicting consequences, and making assumptions. In this section, we picked the six most common words, which are 予想する, 予測する, 推測する, 推定する, 想定する, and 見込む.
With the kanji 予 (beforehand) and 想 (concept), 予想する can mean “expect” or “anticipate,” but it can also mean “guess,” “suppose,” or “estimate.” The guess can be intuitive, but is often made on the basis of evidence or probability, though without definite proof. The word can be used in any setting.
- That analyst expects the stock will still go up.
- That analyst thinks the stock will still go up.
The first sentence with 予想する sounds like the analyst is anticipating the rise of the stock based on data, news, etc. On the other hand, the one with 考える is broader and can mean the analyst is personally thinking that the stock will go up.
予測する uses the kanji 予 (beforehand) and 測 (measure), and the word simply means “predict,” “forecast,” or “estimate.” It is similar to 予想する but a little more formal and usually involves data analysis to back up the prediction or the forecast.
- Our company president estimated that next month's sales would be down.
- Our company president thought that next month's sales would be down.
The first sentence with 予測する sounds like the president used all sorts of data to officially predict next month's sales. The one with 考える can mean the same, but the word by itself doesn't convey the detail.
推測する uses the kanji 推 (infer) and 測 (measure) and the word means "speculate." It is used when you make a speculation about something based on the limited information you have available to you. It's more often used to make a subjective speculation about something based on the current situation or past experience, rather than to make a data-driven prediction about the future. Now how does it work in a sentence?
- I supposed they were in their 30s because they have no wrinkles, but it turns out they're in their 50s!
- I thought they were in their 30s because they have no wrinkles, but it turns out they're in their 50s!
In this context, the meanings of 推測する and 考える are pretty much the same, but 推測する is more formal. In this case, you might see it in a novel describing the appearance of a character, but it would come off as a little strange in a everyday conversation.
推定する is a word that means “suppose” or "estimate." The kanji used is 推 (infer) and 定 (determine) so, unlike 推測する, you usually have some data or facts to support your estimation. The word can be used in any setting, though it carries a touch of formality.
- We estimate the cost to be in excess of one million yen.
- We think the cost is in excess of one million yen.
The one with 推定する sounds like you are approximately calculating the costs to be over one million yen based on some credible information. The one with 考える can mean the same but the word by itself doesn't convey that the thinking was done based on supporting information, so it can also be just a random guess. That being said, 推定する is a formal word, so 考える is more commonly used in ordinary conversation in the same contexts.
想定する means “suppose” or “assume.” It uses the kanji 想 (concept) and 定 (determine), so it's about making an assumption based on something that is conceptual, like imagining a hypothetical situation. The word can be used in any setting, though it carries a tone that is somewhat formal.
- Evacuation drills were conducted based on the scenario of a tornado.
- Evacuation drills were conducted with the possibility of tornado in mind.
In this case, the meanings of the two sentences are basically the same. In this context, 考える means "consider the possibility of a tornado." 想定する, however, has a slightly more formal tone and conveys the nuance that the evacuation drill was carried out based on the realistic scenario of a tornado.
見込む means "foresee," "anticipate," or "allow (for)," and it's used to anticipate something as part of an overall plan. The kanji used are 見 (see) and 込 (include), which suggest that you're incorporating some foresight based on information or your world knowledge. The word is quite common, and can be used in both formal settings and casual conversations.
- We anticipate it to take us at least an hour to get there.
- We think that it would take us at least an hour to get there.
The first example with 見込む sounds like you are not only estimating the time to get somewhere but also including it as a part of your event plan. On the other hand, 考える expresses your thought neutrally.
In this final section, we're going to cover words for reflection, which are 反省する and 省察する. You can use these words when thinking deeply or carefully about what has happened or is happening.
反省する uses the kanji 反 (anti) and 省 (conserve), and it's used to seriously think over what you've done or what has happened. It often comes with regret, though it can be a neutral review or reflection on something. The word can be widely used on any occasion. To emphasize your seriousness, you can replace the kanji 反 with 猛 (fierce).
- You should reflect on what you’ve done!
- You should think seriously about what you’ve done!
Both examples above are expressing a similar thing, but 反省する implies a little more detail, like it encourages you to reflect on what you've done to figure out why it was wrong, why you might have done it and how it can be improved. On the other hand, 考える is broader and a little less forceful.
省察する is more formal than 反省する, and lacks the nuance of regret. With the kanji 省 (conserve) and 察 (guess), the word is used when you reflect on the things that happened, considering both the good and bad aspects. Although this word is not so common, you may come across it in formal writing. And here is the last example.
- I reflected on the result of the project.
- I thought about the result of the project.
The first one with 省察する sounds like you professionally reflected on the result of the project and reported your reflection in formal business document. On the other hand, the one with 考える is more casual and sounds like you personally thought about the result of the project.
Any Thoughts On 考える?
So that’s about it! I hope you’ve got enough words to express your thoughts in a more fruitful and accurate way in Japanese. Since some of them are used for very specific scenarios, it may take some practice to pick the right one in real-life situations. It's quite likely that you'll confuse someone by choosing the wrong word, at least once. But don’t worry and stay adventurous! Instead of staying in your safe zone and using 考える, you should just let them 推定する what you meant! You can always 反省する later by coming back to this article to see why it might not have been the best choice. By doing so over and over again, I 予測する that you’re eventually going to grasp all the different nuances of the 考える alternatives and be able to pick the right word to say exactly what you want to say.