Having second thoughts (Changing our minds, Part 2)

nine wooden blocks stacked in a square - eight are black and point right, and one is red and points left
Chaiyawat Sripimonwan/EyeEm/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

In part 1 of this post (Changing our minds, Part 1), I looked at language that is often used to refer to people in positions of power changing their decisions or plans. This post continues the ‘changing your mind’ theme but instead focuses on the sort of language that is used when people more generally change their minds.

Starting with a nice phrase, if you decide not to do something that you planned because you now think it’s a bad idea, you can say that you think better of it:

I was going to tell him to leave but I thought better of it.

If you have second thoughts, you change your mind about a decision that you’ve made or you start to have doubts about it. If you change your mind about something you have just said, you might introduce your new plan with the phrase On second thoughts …:

I had thought we’d get the train, but I’ve just seen the price of tickets and I’m having second thoughts.

Could you tell Emily about the new arrangements? No, on second thoughts, it would be better if I called her and told her myself.

In UK English, if you change your mind about something after learning more about it, you might use the phrasal verb think again:

I had considered opening a café but hearing about Amy’s awful experience made me think again.

Another phrasal verb in this area is ‘come round’. Someone who comes round changes their mind about something after being persuaded by someone else to do so:

At first, my mother wasn’t keen on paying for help, but we talked it over and she came round to the idea.

And what if someone repeatedly changes their mind about something? What phrases do we use for that?  In UK English, we can talk, usually disapprovingly, about chopping and changing:

At some point you’ll have to make a decision and stick with it – you can’t keep chopping and changing like this.

If someone repeatedly changes their mind about whether they like or are in favour of someone or something, you might say they blow hot and cold:

“What does Tom think about moving to the country?” “I’m not sure – he blows hot and cold on the idea.”

A rather formal verb meaning ‘to repeatedly change your mind’ is vacillate:

He vacillated about whether to pursue law or medicine.

Finally, a change of heart is a change in your decision or your opinion about something:

She was going to take the job, but it seems she had a last-minute change of heart.

I hope you’ve found this two-part post interesting and have learned some new ways to talk about changing your mind.

12 thoughts on “Having second thoughts (Changing our minds, Part 2)

  1. mapyziakhotmailcom

    Dear Kate Woodford,
    THis is such a great collection of phrases regarding making decisions.

    I am full of admiration and eternally grateful for those jewels of the language with witch Kate Woodford embroiders the imagery of mine and my students.
    It is such a grand lesson both for me and for my students.

    Many thanks for yet another revealing example of how to present thoughts in writing, in a concise and compelling way.

    With deep respect,
    Mateusz Pyziak

    1. Being “hot and cold” is indeed a great idiom.

      It is also a game you play when you are close or far to an object.

      And then I am trying to think of a traffic-light related idiom about changing our minds.

  2. I am thinking of the late great Terry Pratchett here.

    His character Tiffany Aching – a witch – would have First Thoughts and Second Thoughts and even Third Thoughts.

    First thoughts – your instincts.

    Second thoughts – your common sense

    And third thoughts – what you end up doing.

    Source: A HAT FULL OF SKY and the Discworld universe.

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