"What' s on your mind?" vs "What's in your mind?"

what’s the difference between the following two:

“What’ s on your mind?”

“What’s in your mind?”

I’d say:

“What’ s on your mind?” = What’s troubling/worrying you?
“What’s in your mind?” = What are you thinking about?

Thanks, Molly! Love, jee.gaetz

I do believe your explanation makes sense. Then, this hits me; Willie Nelson’s song, “You’re always on my mind”? Does this mean the speaker is worried about this person? " I think here, in this song, it means “He is always thinking about her. " or " He can’t get her out of his mind…”??? jee.gaetz

I whole heartedly disagree with this. “What’s on your mind?” means BOTH “What’s bothering you?” AND “What are you thinking about?”

The second one actually makes no sense to me whatsoever as a native speaker. I mean, it doesn’t sound completely wrong, but I can’t think of any context in which someone would say it.

I guess you’d have to ask these people:

Googled. 207,000 English pages for “what’s in your mind”.

There’s nearly 2,000,000 pages for “What’s on your mind”, and 42,000,000 without the quotes.

I’m not sure what that has to do with this.


‘In your mind’ suggests to me the idea of intention. In other words: What’s in your mind? is akin to: What have you in mind? What are you proposing?


I agree.

“What’s in your mind regarding next Saturday and Jon’s visit?”, for example.

Doing an advanced Google search drastically reduces the number of results for “What’s in your mind”. :wink:

… What point were you trying to prove in the first place, then?

Which means?

You said that you couldn’t think of a context in which the phrase could be used. I provided some.

Good point.

Although “…in one’s mind” can be used to imply “in one’s thoughts”, “…on one’s mind” does not necessarily involve trouble or worry.

As for the “207,000 English pages”, big numbers on Google are meaningless: we are not permitted to see result #1001, and so can’t verify that it’s not a (near-)duplicate of one of the other results.

Cf. the comment on the last page:


Yeah, not really. “What’s in your mind” sounds wrong, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Sounds wrong in your variant of English, right?

Apparently, it doesn’t sound wrong to “AMERICA’S MOST HONORED

Don’t think about ideas. Think about writing down what’s in your head. If you stop, listen and “watch” what’s in your mind, you’ll find there is a lot of stuff going on that you can write down. Look at what’s up there in your mind. Be in touch with your head and what goes on up there. You see a pretty out-door scene, try to describe it from memory and write it down.


And I guess it sounds fine to JED DUVALL, ABC News:

Do – you talked about Social Security last night, you talked about prescription drugs. But we – there’s a lot we don’t know about how you’d like to do your Social Security plan, and we don’t know if there would be a guaranteed minimum. We don’t know with prescription drugs, how you would pay for it. # I know that you say this has to be worked out with the Congress in the future, but don’t the voters need to know what’s in your mind about how much of their Social Security they would be able to invest or how much a prescription drug plan would cost? Don’t we need to know those details?

And David Lawrence of the Scripture Union:

2 Make a list of as many Christians as you know at your school. Include pupils, teachers --; even caretakers and dinner ladies if you know they are Christians. 3 Try to talk to some of the people on your list to explain that you’re thinking of starting a Christian group in school. Explain what 's in your mind and ask whether they’d be interested in helping start it or being a part of it when it gets going.


Hi Molly/Milky/Metal/(or whoever you are)

I couldn’t help but notice that not one of your examples was “What’s in your mind?”
Why haven’t you posted any examples of the sentence in the original question? :wink:

Not sure what you mean, Amy. Is there a large difference between the form as a question and as a statement. If so, what’s the difference?

And why haven’t you posted an reply to the original question?

Here’s an example, in question form:

The survivor survives. Result: unity. You overvalue the idea of the self. " # " There’s a real cosmic perspective. Dr. Tate, lay the child down by those carrots, will you? " # " Why should I do that? What 's in your mind ? " # " Thoughts, Dr. Tate.

Title One of Her Paths
Author Ian Watson
Source Fantasy & Science Fiction

The number was insignificant here. The poster needed contexts. Google gives such contexts.

BTW, is “What’s in your mind?” an English form? Is it used?