In mind / in one’s mind / on one’s mind

“In mind,” “in one’s mind,” and “on one’s mind” are quite similar in meaning, but there are important differences in how they’re used. Let’s see if I can clarify.

1. In mind

“Have … in mind” refers to having a specific idea, especially something specific that you want or expect.

  • You say you want to buy a new phone. Did you have a particular brand in mind?
  • A:  Do you want to do something this weekend?
    B: Maybe. What do you have in mind?
  • I don’t like the color of that jacket. I had something darker in mind.

“Keep … in mind” and “bear … in mind” mean to remember to consider something.

  • How much money do you think we’ll need for dinner? Keep in mind that there are six of us.
  • We need to keep our customers’ needs in mind when we design our products.
  • Thanks for your advice. I’ll bear it in mind.

2. In one’s mind

“In one’s mind” is used to talk about someone’s beliefs, opinions, or imagination — especially to contrast it with the real situation or with what other people think.

  • Most people think he’s very rude, but in his mind he’s just being honest.
  • I can’t believe your son is seventeen years old already! In my mind, he’s still a baby.

In the James Taylor song “Carolina In My Mind,” the singer is “going to Carolina in my mind” — which means he isn’t really going to Carolina. He’s just daydreaming about going there.

The Offspring song “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” they sing: “Friends say he’s trying too hard and he’s not quite hip, but in his own mind he’s the dopest trip.” (Translation: His friends don’t think he’s very cool, but he thinks he’s extremely cool.) His coolness is only “in his own mind.”

3. On one’s mind

If you have something “on your mind,” it means you’ve been thinking about it a lot, and maybe worrying about it.

  • Sorry I forgot to call you. I’ve had a lot on my mind these days.
  • A:  There’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a few minutes?
    Sure. What’s on your mind?

The Eagles song “Take It Easy,” the singer has a lot of things to worry about — he has “seven women” and “a world of trouble” on his mind — but he’s trying to forget them and relax.

But the classic example of this phrase is, of course, the Elvis Presley (貓王) song “Always On My Mind.”

Test yourself

See how well you understand these differences. What’s the best way to complete each sentence?

  1. I couldn’t sleep last night because I had too many things ___.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind
  2. She says she wants to go “somewhere interesting” on our vacation. I wonder what kind of place she has ___.
    A. in mind   B. in her mind   C. on her mind
  3. I don’t really care what kind of car I drive. ___, they’re all just cars.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind

Post your answers in the comments, and I’ll reveal the correct answers later.

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish


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