Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds)

by Kate Woodford

Andrew Rich/Vetta/Getty
Andrew Rich/Vetta/Getty

This week we’re looking at the various expressions that we use to say that a thought or idea comes into our mind. As ever, when looking at a particular area of the language, we hope to provide you with a range of interesting ways to say something.

We’ll start with the verb strike. If a thought or idea strikes you, it suddenly comes into your mind: That was when the thought struck him. Like other verbs with this meaning, ‘strike’ is often used in the structure ‘It struck someone that…’

It struck me that Dan might not be the best person for the job.

Another very common way of saying this is the phrasal verb occur to. Again, the structure that we often use is ‘It occurred to someone that…’:

It occurred to me that we could invite Sophia.

Interestingly, we often use ‘occur to’ in negative phrases to describe thoughts and ideas that we didn’t have or we failed to have at a particular time:

I felt so bad – it never occurred to me that she would be upset.

It didn’t occur to me to leave the keys under the mat.

A number of idioms also convey this meaning. One such expression is cross your mind. If something crosses your mind, you think of it: I didn’t actually leave but the thought certainly crossed my mind.

Like ‘strike’ and ‘occur to’, this idiom often takes the form ‘It … that’: It crossed my mind that he might not want to come.

Again, this idiom is also often used in negative phrases:

It didn’t cross my mind that she might lie to me.

It never once crossed my mind to tell her.

Two other ‘mind’ idioms are spring to mind and come to mind. Thoughts and images that spring to mind or come to mind come quickly into your mind:

When I think of David Bowie, that’s the track that immediately springs to mind.

She asked me if I had any suggestions, but nothing came to mind.

Finally, people sometimes say that a thought or image flashes across/ through their mind, meaning that it suddenly enters their mind. This is often used of a frightening or worrying idea or image:

Scenes from the accident flashed across my mind.

It flashed through my mind that I might not see him again.

13 thoughts on “Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds)

  1. Pingback: Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Sep 07, 2016) | Editorial Words

  2. Pingback: Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds) – shukrimahmoodmohamed

  3. Pingback: Then I had an idea. (Expressions that describe ideas coming into our minds) | tavta's blog

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