Forms for user login typically contain links like these:

Forgot password?

I forgot my password

Why is the past tense used? I would expect present perfect. I mean:

I have forgotten my password

  • 1
    Saves space....
    – mplungjan
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 12:35
  • 1
    forgot is a lot shorter than have forgotten. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 12:35
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    ‘I forgot my password’ could be an instance of the apparent American English preference for the past tense over the present perfect construction in such contexts. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 12:49
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    To throw another reason into the mix. This is the Internet, where points have to be brought across fast. No need to use five words where two will do. Your users have better things to do with their lives than wading through an "Alas, it would appear that kind sir, or madam, has forgotten their credentials" every time they need to recover a password, which is typically precisely when they are also in the most extreme of hurries.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 12:52
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    Yes, there is a need to save space and words. That's for sure. Yet, in my opinion these efforts should not change meaning of sentences as in this case. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


The Microsoft Manual of Style (4th edition) recommends concise structure. "Don't use two or three words when one will do." page 7. Also The Global English Style Guide recommends simplification of tenses for ease in translation.


Application user interfaces are not conversations, contracts, speeches or debates. They are highly specialized and subject to their own constraints. Expecting them to adhere to other standards is as silly as expecting a surgeon in the middle of an operation to have a formal debate about what the next step should be when something goes wrong. It’s not a pidgin or bad English. It’s not necessarily about being shorter (reset password is shorter), it simply has its own standards that are used to suit its own needs and conventions.

It’s different, accept that.

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