The -ról / -ről ending could be used for either English phrase. I can't think of any difference between "What do you think of the building?" and "What do you think about the building?" and I would translate both English sentences exactly the same way (Mit gondolsz az épületről?)
You would gondol valamire or gondol valakire more if you're talking about turning your thoughts to the subject of something or someone:
Gondolj rám! - Think of me! / Think about me!
A gyerekekre is gondolunk - We are thinking of (considering, directing our thoughts to) the children too.
But there is a difference.
If I think of you, then you are in my thoughts, hopefully because you are dear to me.
This one is: "Gondolok rád" / "Rád gondolok". ("onto you")
If I think about you, especially if I am thinking about you, then you are the topic of the conversation that's going on inside my head. It could be something you did, you said or proposed. Or something I heard about you. Again, let's hope it is something good.
This one is: "Gondolkodom/gondolkozom/gondolkodok rólad" ("about you"). Pick your favorite of the variations there. This is the repetitive form of the verb, indicating a longer process, with many thoughts, a conversation in one's head. Actually, here you can also use the locative(?): "Gondolkodom rajtad".
"I need to think about this proposal"
- "Gondolkodnom kell ezen a javaslaton"
- "Gondolkodnom kell erről a javaslatról"
Now, when it is a question, especially the type of question above (with "what"), we are restricted to simple thoughts, not a "thought conversation" - a thinking debate. So it would be just "Mit gondolsz az épületről?", whether it is "of" or "about".
Or, maybe, just maybe, we could make a distinction:
"What do you think of the building?" - "Mit gondolsz az épületről?" - simple
"What do you think about the building?" - This could be closer to "What are your thoughts about the building?", even "What is your opinion about the building?" (or "of the building"?) - And this would translate to "Mi a véleményed erről az épületről?"
Any thoughts anyone? Please comment.
I personally think that "What do you think of the building?" better conveys that you're asking for the person's opinion of the building. However, I think "What do you think about the building?" expresses that pretty well, too.
On the other hand, if you were to use the present continuous and say "What are you thinking about the building?" then it would be more like "What thoughts are going on in your head about the building?" It isn't necessarily opinion. You might simply be thinking about the history behind the building.
On this webpage this sentence is given:
- Házra gondolok. = I think about a house.
On a different page of the same website it says, "Note that they do not think about something, they think 'onto' something."
Those two quotes are the reason why I posted my initial question. I was wondering if the sublative case is used when merely thinking about something — not necessarily expressing opinion — and the delative is used when talking about opinion. The examples you gave above seem to disprove what was said on that website.
I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. ^_^
Well, I think everything that was said here until now is correct. It is just hard to accurately define what's going on here. Part of the problem is that "think of" can mean different things when in a statement vs in a question. Maybe the same is true for "about". And that sentence you quote may not be the correct translation.
Maybe we can establish that, in a question like the one above, "of" and "about" are more or less the same:
"What do you think of the building?"
"What do you think about the building?"
Both could be translated as:
"Mit gondolsz az épületről?"
The present continuous
"What are you thinking about the building?"
is probably also
"Mit gondolsz az épületről?"
Or you could use a very different sentence:
"Min gondolkodsz az épülettel kapcsolatban?" - What are you thinking about in connection to the building?" - But let's not go there now.
Maybe we can just say that the only time we say "az épületre" is when it is about directing/focusing our attention (thoughts) on the building. So it is not about what we are thinking but rather whether it is in our thoughts or not.
So, if I say "Think of a number between 1 and 10", I am asking you to focus your thoughts on a number. That would be "-ra":
"Gondolj egy számra".
And when I finally think I know what that number is, I would say "Were you thinking of the number seven?"
"A hetes számra gondoltál?"
All other cases would probably be "-ról/-ről".
Or "-on/-en/-ön". When I am thinking on/about a problem. (Or on a chimney if I am a kindergarten teacher). But this version definitely goes with the derived verb "gondolkodni" - to have a thought process.
How about that.
I have one thing to add (3 months later). The expression "to think of" is an idiomatic way of saying, "to have an opinion of." I think it's a special case. Would Hungarian even use "gondol" to express the idea of opinion, or is there another verb commonly used for that? I'm asking because, even though these exercises translate sentences using "gondol" to "think of/about," the creators might not have had this idiomatic meaning in mind. They might have simply intended both "think of" and "think about" to refer to the thoughts in one's head, rather than to one's opinion.
I am not sure how much idiomatic that meaning (opinion) is. After all, what we think is usually our opinion, isn't it?
Anyway, I think Hungarian uses it the same way, to talk about one's opinion.
"What do you think of Duolingo?" and "Mit gondolsz a Duolingóról?" are very close translations of each other, both literally and idiomatically.
Btw, "opinion" is "vélemény" in Hungarian. And it has a verb form, too: "vélekedni". But it is not commonly used.