I guess vs. I think

I recently have asked one of my acquaintances if there was any difference between I guess and I think and she said no. However the fact these are two different verbs tells me there must be a difference even if it’s a slight one. Is guess more vague than think? Or is think more general than guess? Thank you all.

Hi englishfan,

Interesting question - guess has the idea of imagine and think has the idea of having an opinion. So I guess you’re right means I imagine/suppose you’re right and I think you’re right means I’ve thought about it and that’s my opinion.

Interestingly I guess is more used in American English although it had its origins in British English and then went to America and now it’s coming back.


Hi Alan, thank you for your prompt and precise answer. Very useful.

‘I guess’ often has the sense of ‘I fear’, ‘what else can I do’, ‘there is no alternative/choice’, ‘there is nothing left to do but’, ‘there is no other way out of the problem’ or when you are reluctant or not very convinced about something: I guess I’ll have to wait for the next train / It’s OK, I guess / I guess he’s right / I guess I’ll have to rewrite my essay now. That’s how I understand it, anyway.

I agree with you, Conchita! That’s how a native speaker of AmE would use “I guess”.

And “I think” is simply used to give an opinion.


For me, “guess” is more like… hesitant? I guess something means I think it but am not certain. I only use “I think” to describe a thought that is for sure what I am thinking, no maybes about it.

For me I use “I think” when I want to express an opinion of something. “This is my opinion…”

“I guess” is when you for the most part areuncertain, but feel like you should say something, or are posed with a question.

I agree. I use “I guess” when I am unsure of what to say or what to think about something. I use “I think” to express my opinion. It’s like saying, “In my opinion”.