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The use of "I think that" and "I feel like"

I noticed a few English learners use the phrases "I feel like" in ways that are not quite right. It is a very common conversation phrases in English. Generally, it should not be used in formal talks, discussions or writing.

The word "like" is commonly used in English and has two meanings. It is used to indicate a preference or enjoyment of something or someone: I like cheese, it is delicious! I like John, he is so nice!.

"Like" is also used to compare two things: Alligator meat tastes like chicken.

For a *real* feeling, do not use the word "like". For example: I feel angry because Mary did not return my phone call. Anger is a *real* feeling and you shouldn't say "I feel like angry". However, we often want to express more complex thoughts/feelings that isn't an actual feeling. For example, "I feel like my life has no meaning". There is no *real* feeling stated here - it is a general mix of thoughts and feelings.

The phrase "I feel like" is getting more popular in the US and is over used, especially with the younger generation. I am a professor and I hear students say "I feel like. . . " everyday - when the student should say "I think".

For example:

"I feel like same sex marriage should be illegal." or "I feel like I can trust Donald Trump". It is better to say "I think" since these are opinions that should be supported with facts and rational thoughts. To me, the phrase "I feel like" can make a person sound uneducated and stupid, because they don't think and they cannot have an intellectual conversation (you cannot debate a "feeling" someone has). So, I recommend using "I think". I only use "I feel like" for abstract feelings such as: "I feel like my life is missing something".

Sep 10, 2016 1:12 AM
Comments · 2


September 10, 2016

I agree with you in part. It is a very common phrase and, for the most part, socially accepted in casual conversation. Yet, in an academic or professional setting it is not a good way to phrase an opinion and it is wrong. There is absolutely no way I would ever write "I feel like" on a manuscript or say that during a talk. My colleagues and I would never allow that terminology. If during an oral or written presentation a student said something such as "I feel like the data is reliable and shows an effect" - they would get pulled aside and instructed on how to properly phrase the statement. It's fine to use the phase when someone is hanging out with their friends in a bar talking about the weekend. It's not okay to use the phrase when you are in a staff meeting discussing the budget for the next fiscal year. Some people want to learn English for casual conversation, yet many also want to learn for their careers. I'm seeing the phrase pop up in essays they are writing for classes and I hope their teachers are correcting them. It is better to use the phrase "I believe (that)" or "I think (that) in a formal setting.

My Donald Trump example is not very good, for the reasons you stated. The concept of trust involves a lot of emotion for many people. Better examples would be: "I feel like Aztec civilizations were more advanced than Incan civilizations". or "I feel like company profits have declined primarily because of rising health care costs." No way would that fly.

September 10, 2016
Language Skills
English, Spanish
Learning Language