Can the verb to clear be used in the following sentence:

The memories of her, all cleared.

cleared here should mean that all the memories the person had about someone (in this case a woman) are gone, they are deleted/erased from his mind.

Is the above phrase correct? Or should we use to clear only when we talk about something not as abstract as the mind of a person? I often see that to clear is used in the context of the memory of a computer, e.g.:

Press this button to clear the memory of your PC.

Thanks for your attention!

  • For me, it would make more sense to see the phrase all erased rather than introduce ambiguity with clear(ed). all gone would be appropriate too if you wouldn't want to stress on how the memories went away
    – Ashok Goli
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 11:06
  • 1
    You can use clear as empty or erase, provided you make it clear (!) from the context that that is what you mean.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 15:07
  • @Drew what do you mean? Can you provide an example, please? Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 8:21
  • 1
    Clear can mean empty or erase. If the context makes it obvious that you are dealing with operations such as filling and emptying then to clear will likely be understood as to empty.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


We can speak of clearing a computer memory meaning re-initialising storage, and of deleting or erasing information in a computer, which may amount to the same (depending on the system). Clear has more of a connotation of the physical memory storage, whereas erase and delete have more of a connotation of the actual data.

If we say that a person has a clear memory of a specific event, we mean that he remembers every detail of the event. This is in contrast to a vague memory in which only certain aspects of an event can be recalled, and perhaps the person is unsure about them even.

If the man in the example has a clear memory of the woman then he remembers everything about her, what she was wearing when they met, the time of day, the music playing, every detail of their conversation etc.

To say that the man's memories of the woman were cleared may not be a good way of saying he had forgotten all about her, because the association of having a clear memory conveys the opposite.

Even if it is clear in the context that you are using a computer analogy, erase or delete work best because it is the "data" about her that has become irretrievable, rather than the brain cells and neurons that have been reset.


No, you wouldn't do this, because clear already has an accepted meaning in this context, even if the literal meaning would allow it to be used the way you suggest.

Generally, you can use clear in the sense of to clear your mind of something. But this doesn't mean to erase all memory of that thing. It means to take your attention off of that thing so you are better prepared to accomplish some other objective without distraction. (You may clear you mind just to relax.)

In this example, a long distance runner needs to be able to focus on his objective and remove distractions from his mind:

One of the most important skills I've learned as an ultra-endurance athlete is how to clear my mind of unwanted thoughts. When your feet are covered in blisters, the pavement is hot enough to fry an egg, and you still have 3 marathons to run—you learn quickly how to pull any tricks from your psychological toolbox that will help you reach the finish line. (Psychology Today)

In another example, a surgeon who has just become engaged to be married would want to clear her mind of her plans and her future spouse when she is about to go to work. But that is definitely not the same as forgetting, deleting, or erasing those thoughts from her memory.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.