Creo que vs. Pienso que
So I have a question for the native speakers and/or other advanced students that happen to know the difference between the phrases "creo que..." and "pienso que...". As a native English speaker, I used to use "pienso que..." more often, because in English I would say "I think that...". However, I have noticed that most native Spanish speakers I talk to (who are primarily from Mexico and Columbia) tend to use "creo que..." most the time, and I have since switched to that. Can anyone explain the different connotations between the two and/or if they are interchangable? When I say "creo que..." am I saying something different than when I say "peinso que..."?
"Creo que" is definitely more popular than "pienso que" when you want to say "I think, believe, have the opinion of ...."
Pensar = something you do with your brain. "Pienso en ti." (I think about you)
Creer = something you think, as in believe, have an opinion about. "Creo que va a llover" (I think/believe that it's going to rain.)
"Pienso que" comes out as more tentative than "creo que" and the well known "hispanic exaggeration" ensures that nobody only "thinks that" - they all "believe that" or even "know that"
PS Just consider "perfeccionar" which no way means "to perfect" but only "to improve". Driven home to me by the HR boss at UN in Chile who told me that he spent time in England to perfect his English!
Adding to Mariana's answer:
Pensar is more of an action you would use toward something, like she said, "Pienso en ti" meaning "I think of you". When you think of someone, they're not a belief or a thought process, it's something you do.
Creer is more of a thought process or something you believe, like "Creo en esta religión" meaning "I believe in this religion". Or here is an even better example to set them apart. "Creo en ti" would translate "I believe in you", as in you have faith in that person. "¡Si se puede! Creo en ti." translating to, "You can do it! I believe in you". You're believing in that person, not thinking in that person.
If you think that something is one way then you use, "Creo que". If you think about someone or something, you use "Pienso que".
Does this help?
I asked a similar question once. Click here to view the thread.
I've noticed when reading corrections for " picture of the day" there is confusion between these two terms, so I did a search and came up with this thread. I have also been corrected for using" pienso que" when I should have used "creo que".