Does the sentence

His memory is lost

have these two meanings?

  1. It could mean that our memory of him is lost.
  2. It could mean that he has lost his memory.
  • I'd only interpret it as meaning #1. I wouldn't have thought of meaning #2. Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 7:12
  • @JoachimSauer, really? I would have thought that without context the meaning #2 would be more obvious. Given the context both meanings are possible.
    – Unreason
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 7:40
  • @Unreason: I simply don't expect #2 to use a passive phrasing, I'd expect that to be written "He has lost his memory.". Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


‘Memory’ can certainly mean both (1) the facility to remember and (2) the remembrance of a person or thing. In support of (2), the OED cites this from George Orwell’s ‘1984’: ‘His mother's memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him.’ However, while ‘His memory is lost’ is a grammatical sentence and capable, just about, of bearing either of those two meanings, it is an unlikely sentence. ‘He has lost his memory’ less ambiguously conveys sense (1), while ‘People have forgotten him’ is a clearer expression of sense (2).

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