I have read the previous questions and comments about "forget and forgot" but none has enlightened me with what's on my mind.

We were once corrected by our Communication Trainer when we used "forgot." He said we only use "forgot" if you are referring to a tangible thing that you have forgotten. On the other hand, we use "forget" for abstract or non-tangible things, like "I forget your name." Is there any rule or principle behind this from native speakers' point of view? Alternately, did our Communication Trainer simplify his instructions for our benefit, or was he mistaken, or did we misunderstand?

closed as off-topic by Drew, Hellion, Nathaniel, Rory Alsop, ab2 Sep 29 '16 at 22:09

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    Forget isn’t different from other verbs as far as tense is concerned: “I forget his name” means that you are currently forgetting it, or that you generally forget it; “I forgot his name” means that you forgot it at some point in the past; “I have forgotten his name” means that you forgot it at some point in the past and are therefore now in a state of not being able to remember it. It’s aspect where forget is a bit odd. It’s not stative, but the simple present is usually used instead of the continuous present in the context you describe. That is a bit unusual. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 29 '16 at 16:37
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    Can you please link to the previous questions and comments? Did any of them have any useful information at all? – sumelic Sep 29 '16 at 17:55
  • Why is this off topic? – Jeff Axelrod Aug 24 at 20:31

Your Communication Trainer is wrong.

'Forgot' is the past tense of 'forget', and that is the only difference between them.

So "I forget your name" means that right now I am forgetting (i.e. not remembering) your name. "I forgot your name" means that your name went out of my memory at some point in the past - so "I was going to add you to the invitation list, but I forgot your name." You could say to someone you are meeting "I forgot your name", meaning that you used to know it but at some point you forgot it. Most native speakers would say "I have forgotten your name" in those circumstances, but 'forgot' is not wrong.

The difference between tangible and intangible things is irrelevant.

  • Just want to double check. In your scenario You could say to someone you are meeting "I forgot your name", meaning that you used to know it but at some point you forgot it., does it mean the speaker CURRENTLY ALREADY remember the other person's name again? – RayLuo Mar 19 at 19:08
  • Not usually, but context dependent. If you say simply "I forgot your name" then the implication is that you forgot it at some point in the past and haven't remembered it. If they ask "Why didn't you introduce me to your friend yesterday?" you can say "Sorry Jim, I forgot your name", with the obvious implication that you now remember it. – DJClayworth Mar 19 at 19:43
  • Well then. In that sense, the other term "I forget your name" would not be much useful, let alone it tries to use simple present tense to represent some present continuous tense meaning i.e. "right now I'm forgetting your name". Maybe except in some very specific situation. Mom: "Remember we will visit your dentist tomorrow." Kid: "No! I forget it! / I'm forgetting it!" – RayLuo Mar 19 at 20:18

There's something to what your teacher said, but it sounds like you don't quite understand it yet–hence the question.

Are you familiar with the usage of "can't" in expressions like "can't see," "can't hear," and "can't remember"? The words see, hear, remember are all a bit strange because even though they are verbs, they refer more to states or abilities than to actions.

I would say "forget" is generally equivalent to "can't remember," and "forgot" is generally equivalent to "didn't remember" (but it can also mean "couldn't remember").

So it's true that you'd say "I forget [some fact]" if you're talking about a current situation. "I've forgotten" has a similar meaning.

"I forgot" is the past tense. This can be used for physical objects (such as "I forgot the keys") but it can also be used for actions ("I forgot to turn off the light") and for narrating events in the past ("Yesterday, I saw a schoolmate at the store. I forgot her name, so I just waved at her").

Note that you can say things like "I forget which book I need to get."

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