When using the word “wonder,” it would help to know which phrases work best with it. There are a few ways we can use it, and those either make statements or ask questions. This article will explore the three main uses of “wonder” and which works best.
What Is The Difference Between “I Was Wondering”, “I Am Wondering”, And “I Wonder”?
“I was wondering” is used to make an indirect request. We usually follow the phrase with a question to ask permission. “I am wondering” is used to share your present thoughts, while “I wonder” is used to express thoughts in a similar way, so sometimes it is not said aloud.
The key differences come from the tenses we want to use.
“Was” is a past tense word. We use it in this phrase to show that we were previously thinking to ourselves, but now we are acting on whatever that thought might have been. For example:
- I was wondering if you could help me.
“I am wondering” and “I wonder” are both related to the present tense. They are almost identical in meaning, but we typically use “I am wondering” as the present progressive tense, which we mostly use when we want to determine what happens next:
- I am wondering what I should do.
“I wonder” is a much more general way to establish or express our thoughts to others.
- I wonder what happened over there.
When Should I Use “I Was Wondering”?
Let’s start by looking more into the three phrases. We’ll start with the one that’s most appropriate when asking for permission or making a request.
“I was wondering” works whenever you want to indirectly ask for permission or help. It is a polite way to introduce a question or ask for something that might otherwise be portrayed as rude.
You can see how impactful “I was wondering” is on the following examples:
- Can you help me?
- I was wondering if you could help me.
The two requests are identical, but using “I was wondering” helps the listener to understand that we’re not pressuring them, and we’re trying to be as polite as possible.
You might also find the word “just” comes into play. This mostly applies to informal situations and can typically show up in spoken English. Here’s how it would look:
- I was just wondering if you have a moment to spare.
The “just” makes the request after it seems more like an afterthought. This helps to show the listener that we’re not desperate for their permission, and we will be okay if they turn us down. However, their acceptance would be greatly appreciated in these situations.
When Should I Use “I Am Wondering”?
“I am wondering” works to express our thoughts at present. It’s a little more specific than any of the others.
You can use “I am wondering” when you want to write something that is in the present progressive form. This means we are thinking about something presently, but we’re not sure what our future actions are going to be (until we’ve decided).
There aren’t too many cases where this phrase works all that well. It’s definitely the most specific of the forms. Still, we might see it as follows:
- I am wondering if I should go after her.
As you can see, we haven’t decided upon our next action. We are trying to decide whether it’s worth doing or not, which is what “I am wondering” is trying to do for us.
The idea is that by the time we finish “wondering,” we should know what to do.
Again, “just” comes into play to make the phrase even more informal than before:
- I am just wondering if I should stick around for this.
It’s similar to “I was just wondering,” but this time, “just” shows an urgency to the “wondering” action. Typically, we don’t have long to make our final decision, and we’re showing that we’re trying to think as quickly as we can.
When Should I Use “I Wonder”?
Finally, we come to “I wonder.” This is the more general present expression of thought we can use. It would help to see how it differs from “I am wondering.”
“I wonder” is a general way to express a thought. We typically use it when we want to know more about certain situations or things that have happened around us.
You can see how the phrase differs from “I am wondering” by referring to the following example:
- I wonder if anybody noticed me leaving.
As you can see, “I wonder” is a simple way to express our current thought. We might currently be thinking about our previous exit from something and wondering if “anybody noticed” or if we weren’t caught.
Examples Of How To Use “I Was Wondering” In A Sentence
Some further examples will go a long way to help you understand the three phrases. We’ll start with the requesting phrase.
- I was wondering if you would be able to follow me.
- I was just wondering if you had a moment to spare to help me.
- I was wondering if we could try again!
- I was just wondering if you enjoyed yourself or not.
- I was wondering whether I could be of assistance, so I came to ask you.
- I was wondering if you needed help with that, and I’m happy to assist.
- I was just wondering if I should ask you for help.
“I was wondering” works to ask permission to do something. Sometimes, we use it to make a request, while other times, we might use it to offer our own services to someone else.
Examples Of How To Use “I Am Wondering” In A Sentence
Now, let’s look at the more specific statement we can make to share our thoughts or emotions.
- I am wondering whether it’s worth me sticking around for this.
- I am just wondering if I should still be here or if it’s better that I leave.
- I am wondering if you need me at all.
- I’m wondering whether I should move house by the end of this month or not.
- I’m just wondering if there’s time for me to visit my mother before I go back.
- I am wondering whether I should move on to the next idea.
- I am just wondering what my next move will be!
“I am wondering” works to express our current thought process. It works when we haven’t quite decided what we want to do after our current thought or action, and we are expressing our ideas before making that final decision.
Examples Of How To Use “I Wonder” In A Sentence
Finally, we come to the more general statement yet again. Let’s see how “I wonder” works in more situations.
- I wonder whether he still thinks about me or not.
- I wonder if anyone actually cares for him.
- I wonder what happened here.
- I wonder who thought it would be clever to do something like that.
- I wonder who sent me that text message.
- I wonder whether my boss has somebody he loves in his life.
- I wonder if this place will hire me after they learn what I’ve done.
“I wonder” is a simple way to express our current thoughts or ideas. There are often no further decisions needed here, and we are just expressing what’s come into our minds.
Is It “I Was Wondering If” Or “I Was Wondering Whether”?
You might have noticed from some of the above examples that we used both “if” and “whether.”
“I was wondering if” and “I was wondering whether” are both correct. In these cases, “if” and “whether” are synonymous, and we can use either to balance out the idea or request we’ve put forward for the listener.
- I was wondering if you had time for me.
- I was wondering whether you had time for me.
Is It Acceptable To Use “Just Wondering” As A Question?
“Just wondering” is acceptable when used in an informal setting. We mostly use it in spoken English because the rules are more relaxed. It works well, and many native speakers will use it to ask permission or make a request.
- Just wondering, would I be able to help you with this?
- Just wondering, have you got time to help me with my project?
Is It Ever Correct To Use “I Am Wondered”?
“I am wondered” is not correct. We cannot use the phrase “I am” with the past tense verb “wondered.” “I am” is the present tense, and we use the auxiliary verb “am” to show that we are currently doing something. “Wondered” implies we have finished our action, which is impossible.
You should only keep the present tense form if you want to be correct:
- Correct: I am wondering if I should leave.
- Incorrect: I am wondered whether I can stay here.
“Wondering” And “Wonder” – Synonyms
Finally, let’s look at some synonyms and alternatives you might be able to use. These synonyms can replace “wondering” or “wonder,” so take your pick.
- Ask myself
- Meditate on
- Reflect on
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.