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Why is it wrong to say this sentence and what grammar rules are broken

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1  
Why do you think it's wrong? Who told you that it is wrong? The meaning of the sentence is very clear. It might not be the most formal way to phrase this sentence, but I don't think it's wrong (or at least not in an obvious way). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 16 '13 at 16:15

2 Answers 2

If someone told you that

I'm afraid I forgot my homework at home.

is wrong, the only possible reason is that that someone believes you should have said either:

I'm afraid I forgot my homework. I left it at home.

or

I'm afraid I left my homework at home.

The string "I forgot my homework at home" is ambiguous. When you were at home and supposed to be doing your homework, did you forget that you had homework to do? If so, then you should say:

I'm afraid that after I arrived home yesterday, I forgot that I had homework to do, so I didn't do it.

The problem is one of semantics, not grammar. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

However, most native speakers would understand your sentence to mean that you were claiming two things:

(1) I did my homework.

and

(2) I forgot to bring it with me. It's still at home.

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The verb forget does not take an indirect object marked by at, whereas leave may.

So, in

I left my homework at home.

the at home phrase is an argument of the verb, specifying its meaning. whereas in

I forgot my homework at home.

it is not, and can only be an adjunct: specifying where the action took place, not being part of the meaning of the action. Furthermore, forget in the special sense of leave behind (as opposed to forget about) is not really compatible with such a locational phrase.

As Frustratedwithformsdesigner says, the second sentence is understandable in context, but it is not something that a native speaker would say, except in the rather unusual meaning where at home is an adjunct; something like

I was thinking about my homework all the time I was at the gym, and then on the bus, but I forgot my homework at home.

For your meaning, either

I forgot my homework. or I left my homework at home. would be the normal ways to express it.

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This is precisely when forget means “to leave behind unintentionally,” and I don't see how it's incompatible with a location. Indeed, Wiktionary uses it in the example of leave behind meaning “to forget”: We (accidentally) left behind our bags at the airport. (I personally would rephrase that as We left our bags behind at the airport, but I guess they wanted to stress the phrasal verb.) –  Bradd Szonye May 16 '13 at 22:53
    
"...it is not something that a native speaker would say..." is always a dangerous thing to say. Native speakers will say anything, even "educated" native speakers. Maybe "...it's not something that a careful native speaker would say unless inebriated..." is more or less true. :-) –  user21497 May 17 '13 at 0:05
    
@Bradd: perhaps it is compatible with a location for you, but not for me, and the result strikes me as unnatural. And we are talking about forget, not leave behind: words with the same semantics may have quite syntactic constraints. –  Colin Fine May 17 '13 at 16:16
    
@BillFranke: yes, perhaps it's an overgeneralisation. But I am emphatically not talking only about careful native speakers: it is my claim (though I am open to counter argument) that it is not something natural to any native English speaker. –  Colin Fine May 17 '13 at 16:18
    
I am a native speaker, and I find it entirely natural. Forgot at home means left at home. –  Bradd Szonye May 17 '13 at 17:14

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