Apart from the difference between forget it and forget about it, what do you forget and what do you forget about?

Do you forget a face, someone's birthday or your date who is waiting for you?

Do you forget about your keys or the money you borrowed your friend? What are the criteria for which is/are acceptable?

In the M-W Learner's Dictionary is found the following, by Peter Sokolowski:

[W]hat's the difference between forget and forget about?

Forget about is used with a couple specific senses of forget. In the following senses, the use of about is optional.

  1. When forget is used to mean "to stop thinking or caring about (someone)":

    • He was once a famous actor, but now most people have forgotten (about) him.
    • You shouldn't forget (about) your old friends.
  2. When forget is used to mean "to stop thinking or caring about (something) on purpose":

    • We need to forget (about) our differences and learn to get along.
    • “I'm sorry I'm late.” “That's OK. Forget (about) it.” [=don't worry about it]
    • Forget about finding a way to escape—there's no way out of here.
    • I had almost forgotten about my car accident last year.

About can add some emphasis when something specific is forgotten, but sometimes the structure of the sentence changes:

  • I forgot to pay the bill. = I forgot about paying the bill.

But can anyone add other details to the different usages?

  • Please edit your question with some context. If the phrases are uttered in exasperation, they are equivalent - both mean something along the lines of drop the argument or rescind the agreement. In other contexts, it may refer to other things.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 12:16
  • I'm asking for what kinds of context where you use forget an foget about. If I could make up contexts on my own I wouldn't have had to ask. Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 16:23
  • Ah, that wasn't clear from the question. You might want to add a line to your question that says something like "I am asking when you say forget X vs forget about X".
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 16:32

3 Answers 3


You can forget about a lot of things, but you can forget less things.

Forget is a general word, forget about is more specific.

Generally speaking, both expressions are equivalent. The differences pop up in context. Forget about is used for properties of an item mostly, or an action with an item. Forget is to completely remove the item from "context".

For example,

  • "I forgot my keys.": Person forgot their keys, as in it was left somewhere, and the person doesn't have it.
  • "I forgot about my keys.": Person might have the keys, but forgot to Use it at the appropriate moment.
  • "I want to forget about my keys.": Person would like to "un"know about its keys, or wants to bury the memories of it.
  • "Forget about the keys!": Intent is to indicate that whoever it was addressed to won't get what the person asked for - right now, the keys.
  • "Forget about it!": Not going to happen.

Take your forget a face example:

  • "I forgot that face.": Person doesn't remember how someone's face looked like, like "I forgot how my Mom's face looks like.", when that person's mother might be dead, or unseen for a long time.
  • "I forgot about that face.": Again, the didn't bring/didn't know/didn't use pattern. Or a more kind, non-direct way of saying one doesn't remember all the facial features - but not the entire face.

There can be different interpretations, but these are the general cases, i believe.

  • 1
    Did you mean "forget fewer things"? Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 12:01
  • Less to forget, forget less is perfectly valid and correct. Fewer to forget means you already enumerated how many things you could forgot, and decided on a few, then even Fewer. Would also make sense, though. Forget Fewer things is also a bit of a mouthful, sounds less idiomatic(can be wrong on that part).
    – Sakatox
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 12:04

The semantic type of the direct object used after certain verbs is often restricted, and the sense of the verb involved may well vary with the object. This is also true when there is a preposition/particle involved. Here is a list of some of the possible semantic types of objects used with 'forget' and 'forget about':

  • forget + possessions (eg I've forgotten my keys) = forget to bring / take etc them.
  • forget + special occasion (eg I forgot her birthday) = forget about it and forget to mark it; implication of dire consequences
  • forget + general activity (I forgot the time we went to Bristol) = forget to consider a relevant episode
  • forget + image etc (eg I never forget a face / a picture I've painted / a piece of music I've heard / a horse I've ridden) = lose the ability to identify
  • forget + knowledge (eg I forgot who scored / my lines) = lose the knowledge


  • forget about + special occasion (I forgot about her birthday) = simply fail to remember (unmarked: no stress on failure to mark)
  • forget about + general activity (I forgot about the time we went to Bristol) = forget to consider a relevant episode
  • forget about + snippet of knowledge (I forgot about the Sadducees) = not bring to mind some relevant learning

The injunctions

  • Forget it!
  • Forget about it!

are interchangeable.

  • "You've got to be joking. This would probably be sent elsewhere from ELL. What's happening to this site? To quote Dan Bron: 'Answering off-topic questions on the ... site sends the wrong message to the user-base."
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 15:47
  • 1
    You're implying that 'In what different ways are 'forget' / 'forget about' used? [ie what are the semantic nuances accompanying each pattern] is on the same level as 'What is proper word here? fallen or fell? : Jagdish was about to say something, but fallen silent. Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 16:05
  • Yes, I'm asking about those nuances. And is that level so difficult to tell that it's illegal to ask this question of mine here on this site? Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 16:27
  • Sorry, @Hugh Vun Vor, that was a response to Josh61's comment (carried over from another question where I said he shouldn't be posting answers to extremely basic questions). Your question here is exactly of the standard ELU expects (apart from the fact that you didn't include examples). Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 17:07
  • @EdwinAshworth - OP does not include examples and research.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 17:10

I can't help being overly literal: To forget is to lose a memory connection. This can be temporary or permanent, but not voluntary. If you 'forgot your keys', you forgot [to bring] your keys - if you actually forgot them, I could show them to you and you wouldn't know who they belonged to. To forget 'about' something is to lose relations that link to/from the object; you might forget that you used them last night, or that they were in the drawer.

I forgot the cat. (I can recall the cat, but I didn't bring it)

I forgot that the cat died. (I lost a specific connection) {note that a temporary loss is implied; otherwise you wouldn't know that you once knew that the cat died}

I forgot about the cat dying. (I lost unspecified connections [related to a specific event])

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