What do you mean about vs. What do you think about
WRONG: Hey, you’re English.
What do you mean about Brexit?
RIGHT: Hey, you’re English. What do you think about Brexit?
16This week’s Czenglish entry concerns one of the worst sounding mistakes that English speakers hear. It is the confusion between ‘mean’ and ‘think’.
Let’s start with the simple definitions. What you ‘think’ is your opinion on something and even if a topic hasn’t been previously introduced, you can simply start a sentence with ‘I think…’ e.g. I think that Egypt is too hot.
What you mean is a further clarification of what you’ve just said. You cannot start a topic with ‘I mean…’ – it doesn’t make any sense. Instead you might, for example, say that you don’t like Egypt because of the weather. When a listener is interested as to why you don’t like it, you might say, ‘I mean that it’s too hot.’
Let’s use the Brexit example to put them both together:
A: What do you think about Brexit?
B: I think it’s a total car crash.
B: I mean it’s a diplomatic and economic catastrophe.