Some of my students have told me they have trouble understanding the difference between suppose, guess, and figure in English. Today, let’s have a look at these three words:
Suppose means to assume something, based on some evidence or probability, but without certain proof:
- I suppose you have a good reason for being late. I’m sure you probably have a good reason for being late.
- It’s 6:10pm and nobody answered the phone in Joe’s office. I suppose they’ve already gone home. I know they usually go home by 5:30 or 6:00pm. Based on that, and the evidence that nobody answered the phone, I assume they’ve already gone home.
We also use suppose to introduce a hypothesis:
- The police suppose the bank was robbed between 9pm Friday and noon on Saturday.
- I suppose we could attract more customers by changing the color of the website.
Guess means to estimate something without having sufficient information to be exactly correct:
- I guess Jane’s boyfriend is about 35 or 37 years old.
- There’s a long line in front of the restaurant. I guess there will be a long wait for a table.
Figure is used in informal English to mean we think or expect something to be the situation:
- The boss said he wants to talk about something important tomorrow. I figure he will talk to me about that transfer to Tokyo I heard about. The transfer to Tokyo is a big topic in my company now, and I since only a few of us speak Japanese, think the boss wants to talk about this.
- I cooked dinner! I figured you would be tired from your long day in the office, so I decided to cook dinner for you. I expected that you would be too tired to cook.
What English words do you find confusing? Leave a comment below and let me know.