5

Can you forget something somewhere?

I expect that much more common is

I have left my book at home.

But, based on other languages where it is quite common (and based on the fact that I somehow feel an intention hidden under the I have left), can you also use (in general, or GB/US/CA/AU specific) the following form?

I have forgotten my book at home.

If a pupil says the first sentence (with leave) in school, will the teacher interpret it as

I have intentionally left my book at home.

or

I have accidentally left my book at home.

?

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  • It sounds idiomatically quite foreign, to my British ear. You may care to read the comment I have made to @Robusto.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 19:18
  • It sounds so very idiomatic to me, yet a bunch of people are telling me it is wrong.
    – thorr18
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 1:54

2 Answers 2

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There is nothing wrong with using forget in the context of articles you have accidentally left somewhere, especially informally.

If you say

I forgot my book at home.

nobody will give your usage a second's thought. They'll simply understand that you don't have your book, and why.

It's also shorter and less fussy than saying you "accidentally left your book at home," which may smack of over-explanation.

Remember, it's informal, so you might not want to use it in up-register situations. But it's how people talk in real life.

As for whether there is some "hidden intention" in using present perfect instead of simple past, I can think of none. Either could be used, and nuances would be conveyed with context or vocal modulation.

later

I don't know where you get the idea that one version is more intentional than the other, but I can assure you as a native speaker of English that such a connotation doesn't exist.

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  • And my second question - if I say "I have left my book at home", is there a hidden intention, or is it completely neutral? Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 18:10
  • I think I may accept your answer - would you please also think about the second half (about the intention in I have left something somewhere)? Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 14:54
  • @HonzaZidek: So added.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 15:22
  • Now I am wondering if you are just pulling my leg or if I have expressed my question so badly :) I meant if there is a "hidden intention" in using the word left instead of forgotten, not in using the present perfect tense! Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 15:56
  • No joke. It never even occurred to me that that could be your source of concern, so that in itself should reassure you that this is not an issue.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 16:45
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One definition of forget is to inadvertently leave behind (OED). Notice inadvertently.

And yes you can indicate where using a prepositional phrase, whether it's at home, on the bus, or anywhere else. Apparently the prepositional phrase refers to the location of the forgotten object (as opposed to where the person was when they forgot the object).

For an early usage (1611) see the King James Bible

When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: (Deuteronomy 24:19).

Using modern spelling it's

...have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to fetch it.

It's clear the shief was forgotten (left behind) in the field because the verse says don't go back and get (fetch) it.

One example sentence from the Oxford dictionary online is interesting:

She almost forgot to bring her cell phone at the top of the kitchen counter but luckily she remembered it.

To me this sounds a little disconcerting because the phone (1) was not actually forgotten, and (2) the prepositional phrase gives such an exact location of where the the "almost-forgotten phone" was–but no longer is!

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  • The last example sounds strange... "She forgot to bring her phone at ..."? Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 18:08
  • Yeah I know it sounds strange, I said 'disconcerting'. I'm not comfortable with the sentence. I added a link to Oxford dictionary online (ODO) where you can find the sentence under 'more example sentences'. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 18:35

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