Which translation is most apt for
- "I always thought so."
- "I have always thought that..."
- "It is always on my mind"
- "I am always thinking about"
When and how is the phrase/expression usually used?
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You could interpret the phrase a few ways depending on context, but two main candidates are as follows:
A: ずっとそう思っていました。 I had always thought so.
B: ずっとそう思っていました。 I have always thought so.
In A, the fact that the phrase is in the past tense 思っていました can indicate a change in the opinion of the speaker. It refers to something that the speaker had always thought to be the case and believed to be so. However, the inference is that it is not something they think now. Their opinion has changed. To give an English example, imagine you lost your dog but but never found him. You might say "I had always thought I would find him, but I never did". The past tense indicates that your opinion has changed.
In B, you could argue that the past tense 思っていました can refer to something which the speaker has always believed right up until this very moment. And they still believe it. In the same example as above, imagine that you had found your dog. Now you might say "I have always thought I would find him, and now I have", This time, the tense serves as a reference point which was continuous from the past up the the current moment and which you are confirming was correct.
Great answer from Kandyman, I don't yet have privileges to vote (just joined today)
Not only as a dog owner, but in general I would just highlight that often the situation could be related to different views between two persons and either telling "E@BJ XNT" (Courtesies to D.Adams) or showing gratitude for having been told about the true matter, e.g.
In A: You realize you have been wrong all these years and now you realize you had been wrong, after having being told so by someone, and now you admit that to the person. (In this case the person who enlighted you did so the first time, i.e. it is not the case of the person having argued for his/her case dozens of times and you having simply argued against that).
B a) You have been suspecting something about a person, but never told him/her about that, and the person finally reviels to you. Or, you have always thought that "a=1" and someone tells you that "a=2" and feel gratitude/shame (or at least you are not pissed) that you got the confirmation.
B b) You are telling a person "So, now you finally believe me after I told you a million times!!!" (I.e. there had been an argument between 2 people about something and a "3rd party source" confirmed who won.)