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Je pense à changer de travail.
Je pense aller chez mes parents.

I saw these two sentences. I wonder what’s the difference between [penser à] [infinitive] and [penser] [infinitive].

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Although this already has an answer, as this other question has answers in French and is more general I will try to make a short point in English here.

There's very little difference between the two uses in your two examples. If you say:

  • je pense à changer de travail

or:

  • je pense changer de travail

    it means that you are thinking about it in either case.

Saying je pense à changer de travail just shows you might be thinking more intensely about it but in neither case have you made up your mind.

The same can be said about:

  • Je pense aller chez mes parents

and:

  • Je pense à aller chez mes parents.

But in that case je pense aller chez mes parents is probably much more common. Personally I would not say je pense à aller chez mes parents independently of the context but I see no reason why it could not be said.

But in the sentence:

  • Il faut que je pense à aller chez mes parents.

where the sentence is introduced by il faut que ("I must") having à is mandatory, because il faut que indicates you have already taken a decision and penser à in that sentence does not mean "to think" but "to remember".

  • No, there's a huge difference between “je pense à changer …” (I'm thinking about changing, but that doesn't mean I'm planning to do it, it just means that I don't completely reject it) and “je pense changer …” (my current plan is to change, I may still take a different decision but it's likely that I will do it). – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Oct 17 at 22:09
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"Penser à" is the translation of "to think about".

You can think about someone or something (in this case about doing something).

So it works for:

Je pense à mon chien = I'm thinking about my dog

Je pense à changer de travail = I'm thinking about changing jobs

Je pense à ce que j'aimerais faire demain = I'm thinking about what I'd like to do tomorrow

"Penser" is "to think" and its main use is "penser que" = "to think that".

Je pense que tu as raison = I think (that) you are right

Je pense que je devrais changer de travail = I think (that) I should change jobs

We don't really use "penser" as is, like "Oh sorry, I was just thinking", we would say "Oh désolé, je réfléchissais".

"Penser" + infinitive is a specific construction.

The best translation is, as Rémi said, with the future:

Je pense venir chez toi demain = I think (that) I'll come to your house tomorrow

Je pense changer de travail (bientôt) = I think (that) I'm going to change jobs (soon)

Note that you can use the "que" construction I explained above to carry the exact same meaning, and that's probably what most people do:

Je pense que je viendrai chez toi demain

Je pense que je vais changer de travail (bientôt)


Note that there are many uses of this verb, for example "penser" + something, or some constructions like "je pense comme toi" (I agree, I'm thinking the same), or "bien pensé" (well-designed, well-engineered, thought through): https://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/penser

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The sentence

Je penser à changer de travail.

Is completely wrong in French, you can't have a pronoun followed by an infinitive.

The right way to write it would be

Je pense à changer de travail

J'ai pensé à changer de travail

In French there is a small difference between

Je pense changer de travail And Je pense à changer de travail

The first one means that you've already taken your decision and that it's going to happen : I think I'll change jobs

The second one is more hypothetical, where no decision has been made yet : I'm thinking about changing jobs

  • To be honnest I understand no difference between both your examples with "changer de job". In both cases there's nothing concrete, just an idea. – Laurent S. Oct 17 at 14:11

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