Compare the following two sentences:



If I'm right about this, they both mean that the speaker is thinking of going somewhere.

However, the difference is that in the first case, the use of indicates the speaker is literally saying those words in their mind. The English translation would be:

I'm thinking, "I'll go over there."

In the second case, indicates that the speaker is not literally thinking those words, so it's not a quote of their thoughts, it's just a description of their thoughts. So the English translation would be:

I'm thinking of going over there.

I think this is right, but somehow the second one looks really awkward to me, so it doesn't feel right in some way.

Is my intuition correct that there is something grammatically wrong with it?

... should it be instead of ?

  • 1
    I've only ever seen a と思う pattern in my studies. Not sure about を or other particles. I'll probably leave this one for more qualified people to answer.
    – Flaw
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 6:14
  • 1
    @Flaw を is used with 思う in sentences like "あなたのことを思っている"
    – Lukman
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 6:22
  • 2
    "行こうを思う" looks mighty strange to me... And Google doesn't seem to have heard of it. As @Lukman points out, you might be confusing this with the Noun+を思う construction...
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 6:57
  • 1
    Related: Why is を used in this situation? 私は先生がネコを好きだと思います On ability to assign accusative case. (I'm on a quest to review as many questions as possible and linking them all up where related)
    – Flaw
    Commented Mar 17, 2012 at 3:32

1 Answer 1


Basically, を follows a noun (eg. "車") or a nominal group (eg. "私が運転してる車"), not a proposition. (This) と follows a proposition, not a noun or nominal group.

行こうを思う is thus not grammatical. You'd want 行くことを思う for a grammatically correct sentence. It would mean that you think of the concept of going. It is different from thinking of you going, which would be 行こうと思う, where the 行こう form embeds the subject (since it's a form used to express introspection or monologue where the subject is known to be the thinker). In fact, 行こうとする、 行こうと思う are very common and standard forms to say "I'm getting ready to do go" and "I think I'll go".

Another thing, you can say "君を思う" (I'm thinking of you) but not "君と思う". You'd need "君だと思う" (I think it is you) or something like that which has a different meaning.

  • Thanks for the answer... but unfortunately I don't understand terms like "nominal group", or what it means to "embed the subject". So I only understand about 60% of what you're saying.
    – Questioner
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 15:08
  • @Dave: any better?
    – Axioplase
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 2:36
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    To put it in terms of English grammar, を , at least in Modern Japanese, always marks the direct object of a transitive verb, so it has to mark a thing you can do something to, i.e. a noun or a noun phrase. In English, 「行こうを思っている」 might be something like "I'm thinking let's go", which is not strictly grammatical. If you make it "I'm thinking,'let's go'", adding the quote marks, it's fine. This is essentially what the "と" in 「行こうと思っている」 does.
    – rdb
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 4:41
  • That sentance with 「行こうとする」, would you mind clarifying it for me? I've learned that 「(short volitional)と思う」 essentially means "I'm deciding to" (or "decided" if ~と思っている), but 「(short volitional)とする」.. I'd appreciate a clarification.
    – gibbon
    Commented Mar 17, 2012 at 17:27

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