verb (imagines, imagining, imagined )
1 to make a picture of something in your mind:
Can you imagine life without electricity?
I closed my eyes and imagined I was lying on a beach.
2 to see, hear, or think something that is not true:
I never said that, you're imagining things.
i‧ma‧gine S1 W2 /ɪˈmædʒən, ɪˈmædʒɪn/ BrE AmE verb [transitive]
[Word Family: adjective: imaginable ≠ unimaginable, imaginary, imaginative ≠ unimaginative, unimagined; noun: imagination, imaginings; adverb: unimaginably, imaginatively; verb: imagine]
[Date: 1300-1400; Language: French; Origin: imaginer, from Latin imaginari, from imago; ⇨ image]
1. to form a picture or idea in your mind about what something could be like
Imagine that you have just won a million pounds.
Imagine life without hot water.
imagine what/how/why etc
Can you imagine what it’s like when it’s really hot out here in Delhi?
imagine somebody doing something
She could imagine dark-robed figures moving silently along the stone corridors.
(just) imagine doing something
Imagine doing a horrible job like that!
Just imagine going all that way for nothing!
imagine somebody/something as something
He didn’t quite dare to imagine himself as a real artist.
imagine somebody in/with/without etc something
Somehow, I can’t imagine him without a beard.
it’s difficult/easy/possible/impossible etc to imagine something
After such a dry summer, it’s difficult to imagine what rain looks like.
2. to have a false or wrong idea about something:
Perhaps she’d never really been there at all – perhaps she’d just imagined it.
She had imagined that the doctor would be male.
I was surprised when I saw the farm. I had imagined it would be much bigger.
imagine something/somebody to be something
There’s nobody here. You’re just imagining things.
3. [not in progressive] to think that something is true or may happen, but without being sure or having proof:
‘A very complicated subject, I imagine,’ said Edwin.
You are obviously tired and I imagine that nothing would make you admit it.
4. you can/can’t imagine something British English spoken used to emphasize how good, bad etc something is
You can/can’t imagine how/what/why etc
You can imagine how angry I was!
You can’t imagine what a terrible week we had.
• • •
COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1 )
▪ be easy to imagine It’s easy to imagine how the change in the law caused a lot of confusion.
▪ be hard/difficult to imagine It’s hard to imagine the suffering she must have gone through.
▪ can easily imagine I can easily imagine how frightening the accident must have been.
▪ can well imagine (=can easily imagine) I can well imagine how delighted you were with the news.
▪ can hardly/scarcely imagine (=find it difficult to imagine) He could scarcely imagine what living in such poor conditions must have been like.
▪ can’t/couldn’t imagine He couldn’t imagine life without his wife.
▪ what somebody had imagined (=what someone thought something would be like, before they saw it or experienced it) The office was not what he had imagined.
▪ be bigger/smaller/worse etc than you had imagined The job interview proved to be much worse than I had imagined it would be.
▪ let us imagine … (=used to encourage someone else to think about a possibility) Let us imagine that you are an employer who wants to recruit some new staff.
▪ somebody is imagining things (=someone has a false or wrong idea about something) She’s imagining things if she thinks she has a chance of winning the prize.
▪ naively imagine (=to imagine something without realizing how complicated the situation is) She had naively imagined that marriage would solve all her problems.
▪ fondly imagine (=to believe something that is untrue) He had fondly imagined that she was in love with him.
• • •
▪ imagine to form a picture or idea in your mind about what something might be like: When I think of Honolulu, I imagine long white beaches and palm trees. | I can’t really imagine being a millionaire.
▪ visualize to form a picture of someone or something in your mind, especially something that is definitely going to happen or exist in the future: Anna visualized meeting Greg again at the airport. | The finished house may be hard to visualize.
▪ picture to form a clear picture of something or someone in your mind: I can still picture my father, even though he died a long time ago. | The town was just how she had pictured it from his description.
▪ envisage /ɪnˈvɪzɪdʒ/ especially British English, envision to imagine something as possible or likely to happen in the future: How do you envisage your career developing over the next ten years? | They had envisioned the creation of a single armed force, small but efficient.
▪ conceive of something formal to imagine a situation, especially one that is difficult to imagine: For many people, music is so important that they cannot conceive of life without it.
▪ fantasize to imagine something exciting that you would like to happen, but that is very unlikely to happen: I used to fantasize about becoming a film star.
▪ daydream to imagine pleasant things, so that you forget where you are and what you should be doing: Mark began to daydream, and didn’t even hear the teacher’s question.
▪ hallucinate to imagine that you are seeing things that are not really there, especially because you are ill or have taken drugs: The drug that can cause some people to hallucinate. | When I saw the walls moving, I thought I must be hallucinating.
im·agine [imagine imagines imagined imagining] [ɪˈmædʒɪn] [ɪˈmædʒɪn] verb
1. transitive, intransitive to form a picture in your mind of what sth might be like
• ~ sth The house was just as she had imagined it.
• I can't imagine life without the children now.
• ~ (that)… Close your eyes and imagine (that) you are in a forest.
• ~ what, how, etc… Can you imagine what it must be like to lose your job after 20 years?
• ~ doing sth She imagined walking into the office and handing in her resignation.
• Imagine earning that much money!
• ~ sb/sth doing sth I can just imagine him saying that!
• ~ sb/sth to be/do sth I had imagined her to be older than that.
• ~ (sb + adj./noun) I can imagine him really angry.
• (informal) ‘He was furious.’ ‘ I can imagine.’
2. transitive to believe sth that is not true
• ~ (that)… He's always imagining (that) we're talking about him behind his back.
• ~ sth There's nobody there. You're imagining things.
3. intransitive, transitive to think that sth is probably true
Syn: suppose, Syn: assume
• ‘Can we still buy tickets for the concert?’ ‘I imagine so.’
• ~ (that)… I don't imagine (that) they'll refuse.
Middle English: from Old French imaginer, from Latin imaginare ‘form an image of, represent’ and imaginari ‘picture to oneself’, both from imago, imagin- ‘image’.
1. T, I
• Imagine you are walking through a forest.
picture • • pretend • • think • • see • • visualize • |formal conceptualize • • envision • |especially BrE envisage •
imagine/picture/see/visualize/conceptualize/envision/envisage sb/sth as sth
imagine/picture/see/visualize/envision/envisage (sb) doing sth
Imagine, picture or visualize? Imagine is the most general of these words and is used for any idea that you form of how sb/sth might might look or feel. Picture and visualize are used particularly for imagining sth as a picture or series of pictures.
• ‘Will we still be allowed in?’ ‘I imagine so.’
suppose • • assume • • suspect • • presume • |especially spoken take it • |especially BrE, spoken expect • • I dare say • |especially AmE, spoken guess •
imagine/suppose/assume/suspect/presume/take it/expect/dare say/guess that…
Let's/Let us imagine/suppose/assume/presume/take it…
I imagine/suppose/assume/suspect/expect/presume/guess so.
think • see • envisage • envision
These words all mean to form an idea in your mind of what sb/sth might be like.
imagine • to form an idea in your mind of what sb/sth might be like: ▪ The house was just as she had imagined it.
think • to imagine sth that might happen or might have happened: ▪ We couldn't think where you'd gone. ◊ ▪ Just think ▪ — this time tomorrow we'll be lying on a beach.
see • to consider sth as a future possibility; to imagine sb as sth: ▪ I can't see her changing her mind. ◊ ▪ His colleagues see him as a future director.
envisage • (especially BrE) to imagine what will happen in the future: ▪ I don't envisage working with him again.
The usual word for this in American English is envision (see below).
envision • to imagine what a situation will be like in the future, especially a situation that you intend to work towards: ▪ They envision an equal society, free from poverty and disease.
Envision is used especially in business and political contexts. In North American English it is also used as another form of the word envisage: ▪ I don't envision working with him again.
to imagine/see/envisage/envision sb/sth as sth
to imagine/see/envisage/envision (sb) doing sth
to imagine/think/see/envisage/envision who/what/how…
to imagine/think/envisage/envision that…
• He hardly dared to imagine what else was going to be divulged.
• He loved to imagine himself as the hero.
• He was always keen to avenge insults, real or imagined.
• I always imagined him following in his father's footsteps.
• I can well imagine the atmosphere at home at this moment.
• I can't actually imagine her falling for that trick.
• I can't even begin to imagine the horrors that they have been through.
• I could almost imagine you were jealous.
• I could clearly imagine the scene in the office.
• I could hardly imagine living in such a remote and desolate spot.
• I couldn't fully imagine what it could be.
• I had fondly imagined that riding a mule would be easy.
• I started to imagine what he might say.
• It is difficult to imagine Blackpool without its famous Tower.
• It is difficult to imagine a world without money.
• Let us imagine what really might have happened.
• She could just imagine her mother's look of horror.
• She had so vividly imagined it time and time again.
• She knew she was simply imagining things.
• The artist is free to imagine anything she pleases.
• The sight was disturbing as you can quite imagine.
• There's more at stake here than you can possibly imagine.
• When I think about this story I can almost imagine the look on his face.
• You don't seriously imagine I'll agree to that?
• the best guitarist you could possibly imagine
• ‘He was furious.’ ‘I can imagine!’
• ‘Will we still be allowed in?’ ‘I imagine so.’
• Can you imagine what it might be like to lose your job after 20 years?
• He's always imagining that we're talking about him behind his back.
• I can't imagine life without the children now.
• I don't imagine he'll get here now, do you?
• I had imagined her to be older than me.
• I'd like to imagine that she's safe and happy somewhere.
• If I'm late home my mother always imagines the worst.
• She had imagined that she'd get a warm welcome.
• She imagined walking onto the stage to huge applause.
• You shouldn't imagine that he's anything but a ruthless man.
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 4th Edition
imagine / ɪˈmædʒ.ɪn / verb [ T ]
B1 to form or have a mental picture or idea of something:
Imagine Robert Redford when he was young - that's what John looks like.
[ + (that) ] Imagine (that) you're eating an ice cream - try to feel how cold it is.
[ + question word ] Can you imagine how it feels to be blind?
[ + -ing verb ] She imagined herself sitt ing in her favourite armchair back home.
They hadn't imagined (= expected) (that) it would be so difficult.
I can't imagine (= I really don't know) what he wants from us.
B2 to believe that something is probably true:
[ + (that) ] I imagine (that) he's under a lot of pressure at the moment.
I don't imagine (that) they have much money.
"Will they change it?" "I imagine so ."
B1 to think that something exists or is true, although in fact it is not real or true:
"Did you hear a noise?" "No, you're imagining things /No, you must have imagined it."
I've never heard her criticize you - I think you imagine it.
used to express shock or surprise, often at someone else's behaviour:
She got married at 16! Imagine that!
[ + -ing verb ] Imagine spend ing all that money on a coat!
you can't imagine UK used to emphasize a statement:
You can't imagine what a mess the house was in after the party.
© Cambridge University Press 2013
imagines, imagining, imagined
1) VERB If you imagine something, you think about it and your mind forms a picture or idea of it.
[V n/-ing] He could not imagine a more peaceful scene...
[V n/-ing] She couldn't imagine living in a place like that...
[V wh] Can you imagine how she must have felt when Mary Brent turned up with me in tow?...
[V that] Imagine you're lying on a beach, listening to the steady rhythm of waves lapping the shore...
[V n -ing/prep] I can't imagine you being unfair to anyone, Leigh.
2) VERB If you imagine that something is the case, you think that it is the case.
[V that] I imagine you're referring to Jean-Paul Sartre...
[V that] We tend to imagine that the Victorians were very prim and proper...
[V so/not] `Was he meeting someone?' - `I imagine so.'
3) VERB If you imagine something, you think that you have seen, heard, or experienced that thing, although actually you have not.
[V n] Looking back on it now, I realised that I must have imagined the whole thing. [Also V that]
imag·ine /ɪˈmæʤən/ verb -ines; -ined; -in·ing [+ obj]
1 a : to think of or create (something that is not real) in your mind
• a writer who has imagined an entire world of amazing creatures
b : to form a picture or idea in your mind of (something that is not real or present)
• He asked us to imagine a world without poverty or war.
• It's hard for me to imagine having children.
- often + that
• Imagine that you are relaxing on the beach.
- often + what, why, etc.
• It's hard to imagine what it would be like to be so wealthy.
• I'm sure you can imagine how I felt.
• I can't imagine why she would be so late. [=I do not understand why she is so late]
• “Why is she so late?” “I can't imagine.”
- sometimes used in phrases that express surprise
• Can you imagine! A person like him being elected mayor! [=it is surprising or ridiculous to think of a person like him being elected mayor]
• Just imagine what such a change would mean!
• “This tree is more than 300 years old.” “Imagine that!” [=isn't that remarkable]
2 : to have or form (an idea or opinion that is not accurate or based on reality)
• She imagines that she is very charming. = She imagines herself to be very charming. [=she thinks that she is charming but actually she is not charming]
• He was imagining all sorts of terrible things happening.
• “What was that sound? I think there's someone in the house!” “Oh, you're just imagining things.”
3 : to think or believe (something)
• I imagine it will snow at some point today.
• It's difficult to imagine that these changes will really be effective.
• The company will do better next year, I imagine.
• It was worse than they had imagined.