Mean is a versatile word.

As an adjective, it can be used to describe a person who is unkind and unpleasant toward others, or a dog that barks viciously and chases people. It is the opposite of nice.

In its verb form, mean is used to describe, explain, or define something. It is related to the noun meaning. Therefore, when you ask someone, “What do you mean?” You get a response that describes the intended meaning of something they said.

But there is another use of the word mean. This use occurs far more often than we would like. The word mean is used in its verb form with another verb, in its infinitive form, added to it.

-He has been meaning to read more.

-I was meaning to call you.

-They meant to fix the car.

When mean is used with another verb, as in the examples above, the verb tense is usually present perfect progressive (has been meaning), past progressive (was meaning), or past tense (meant). While this use of mean can appear in the present tense, due to the nature of what mean to communicates, it is most frequently used in one of the three verb tenses listed above.

Here, mean implies an intention. The phrase that follows mean indicates something the subject – he, I, and they in the examples above – intends to happen (to read more, to call you, to fix the car). You might be able to substitute the word want for mean in sentences like these.

But not necessarily.

When you say you mean to do something, you might truly want to do that thing, intend to do that thing, and eventually you will do that thing. That is the strongest interpretation of a mean to sentence. But we as humans can be fickle. We often say we will do things but never do them, either because we are lazy, we forget, or we want to put our listener at ease.

Most of the time when we say we have been meaning to do something, we never do that thing. But that is no reason not to try the things that we have been wanting to do. When I found myself telling others that I have been meaning to run more, I made a mental note. Then, I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement. So far, I have no regrets.

What is on the list of things you have been meaning to do? If speech training is on your list, then you’ll need a plan. Send us a message and we’ll be happy to help.

Glossary

versatile: having many uses || Mean is a versatile word.

viciously: in a violent, dangerous, or cruel manner || a dog that barks viciously

intend: to plan or want to do something, to have in mind as a purpose or goal || a response that describes the intended meaning of something they said

imply: to suggest or express in an indirect way || mean implies an intention

fickle: changing often, especially of opinion || humans can be fickle

at ease: comfortable or relaxed || we want to put our listener at ease

mental note: to pay attention so you can remember a piece of information later || I made a mental note

hit the pavement: to walk or run on the streets; to go out in search of something || I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement