Which is Correct: Forget, Forgot, Forgotten – Understanding Verb Tenses

  • Forgot” is the simple past tense, used for actions completed in the past.
  • Forgotten” is the past participle, often utilized in perfect tense constructions.
  • Understanding context is crucial in choosing the correct form of “forget”.

The simple past tense of “forget” is “forgot,” employed when referring to an action that occurred at a specific time in the past. On the other hand, “forgotten” is the past participle form of the verb, which is often used in perfect tense constructions to indicate an action that was completed before another occurred. The choice between these forms relies heavily on the context of the sentence and the aspect of time one intends to express.

Unraveling the Past Tense of “Forget”

When discussing the verb “forget,” it is crucial to understand its correct past forms. The verb has various forms for past usage: “forgot” and “forgotten.”

“Forgot” is the simple past tense form:

  • Usage: It describes an action that was completed in the past.
  • Example: She forgot her wallet at home.

On the other hand, “forgotten” is the past participle form, which pairs with helping verbs to create perfect tenses:

  • Usage: It’s used with “have,” “has,” or “had” to form perfect tenses.
  • Example: He had forgotten the meeting until he received a reminder.

Past Tense Forms of “Forget”:

TenseFormExample Sentence
Simple PastforgotYesterday, I forgot to call my friend.
Past PerfectforgottenBy the time I arrived, I had forgotten my ID.

Usage Guidelines:

  • Simple Past (forgot):

    • Action completed at a definitive time in the past
    • No auxiliary verb needed
  • Perfect Tenses (forgotten):

    • A past action with present relevance
    • Requires an auxiliary verb (have/has/had)

Deciding: Forget, Forgot, or Forgotten – Which is Correct?

Forget is the base form or the present tense of the verb:

  • I always forget people’s names.
See also  Understanding the Present Perfect Tense: Usage and Examples

The word “forgot” is the simple past tense of “forget”:

  • They forgot to lock the door last night.

Contrarily, “forgotten” is the past participle that is often used with “have” or “has”:

  • She has forgotten her friend’s phone number.

Below are two tables that summarize the uses and forms of the verb “forget”:

Simple Past Tense Usage:

SubjectVerb (Past)

Past Participle Usage with “Have”:

SubjectAuxiliary VerbPast Participle

Exploring Different Verb Forms of “Forget”

Base Form: Forget

  • Usage: It refers to the action of not being able to recall information or to omit something by mistake in the present or future.
    • Example: “They often forget to check their email.”

Past Simple: Forgot

  • Usage: This form describes an action that was completed at a specific time in the past.
    • Example: “She forgot the password yesterday.”

Past Participle: Forgotten

  • Usage: This form is used with auxiliary verbs for perfect tenses or as an adjective.
    • Example (Present Perfect): “They have forgotten the lyrics.”
    • Example (As Adjective): “The forgotten realm remains undiscovered.”
Verb FormExample Sentence
ForgetI always forget to bring my shopping list.
ForgotThey forgot to close the door last night.
ForgottenThe melody had been completely forgotten.
  • Examples of “forget” in different tenses:

    • Present Continuous: “He is forgetting something important.”
    • Past Continuous: “They were forgetting their lines during rehearsal.”
  • Present Participle: Forgetting

    • Used for continuous tenses.
    • Example (Present Continuous): “She is forgetting her keys again.”

Differentiating Between “Forgot” and “Forgotten”

“Forgot” is the simple past tense of “to forget” and is used to describe an action that occurred and was completed in the past. For example:

  • She forgot her wallet at home yesterday.
  • They forgot the answer during the test.
See also  Understanding Swore vs Sworn: Dissecting the Past Tense of Swear

“Forgotten” is the past participle form of the verb and is used in perfect tenses or as an adjective. For example:

  • The keys have been forgotten on the table.
  • It is a forgotten legend from times past.

To visualize the usage, consider the following tables:

Table 1: “Forgot” in sentences

Iforgotto lock the door.
Heforgother name.
Weforgotwhere we parked.

Table 2: “Forgotten” in sentences

SubjectAuxiliary VerbVerbAction
The bookhas beenforgottenon the bus.
Their storyisforgottenby most.
Ihadforgottento send the invitation.
  • Use forgot for simple past tense.
  • Use forgotten as the past participle in perfect tense constructions.
  • Forgotten can also be an adjective describing something overlooked.

Examples of “Forget” in the Present Tense

Here are some examples illustrating the verb “forget” in the present tense:

  • Simple Present Tense:

    • He often forgets his keys.
    • She forgets to call her mother every Saturday.
  • Present Progressive Tense:

    • They are forgetting the words to the song.
    • She is forgetting where she put her glasses.

Present Simple Usage:

SubjectPositive SentenceNegative Sentence
II forget names easily.I don’t forget facts.
YouYou forget your password often.You don’t forget appointments.
He/She/ItHe forgets the time.She doesn’t forget the codes.
We/TheyWe forget to check the mail.They don’t forget their duties.

Present Progressive Usage:

SubjectPositive SentenceNegative Sentence
II am forgetting to take my vitamins.I am not forgetting your advice.
YouYou are forgetting the main point.You are not forgetting the steps.
He/She/ItHe is forgetting the lyrics as he sings.It is not forgetting the default settings.
We/TheyWe are forgetting why we came here.They are not forgetting their responsibilities.

Examples of “Forgot” in the Past Tense

  • He forgot to lock the door before leaving.
See also  Sweeped or Swept: Understanding the Correct Past Tense of "Sweep"

Common usage of “forgot” is observed when speaking about everyday tasks or responsibilities that were not completed.

AppointmentsShe forgot her doctor’s appointment last Monday.
Common tasksThey forgot to turn off the lights yesterday.

In narratives or storytelling, “forgot” helps to describe characters’ actions or lapses in memory.

  • Despite the urgency, the messenger forgot the crucial message.

To highlight the past simple tense, consider these points:

  • “Forgot” indicates a completed action in the past, not extending to the present.
  • It’s used without a helper verb like “have” or “had.”
  • Frequency of forgetfulness or habitual actions in the past also uses “forgot”:
    • As a child, he forgot his keys often.
  • They forgot the way home after the detour.
  • I forgot my password and couldn’t log in.
  • You forgot to say goodbye before you left.

Examples of “Forgotten” as a Participle (in Sentences)

In Present Perfect Tense

  • She has forgotten her keys.
  • They have forgotten the password to their account.

In Past Perfect Tense

  • He had forgotten the document at home.
  • They had forgotten the meeting was today.
Present PerfectUse in Sentence
has forgottenShe has forgotten to sign the form.
have forgottenThey have forgotten their anniversary.
Past PerfectUse in Sentence
had forgottenHe had forgotten about the appointment.
had forgottenBy the time she arrived, she had forgotten why she went there.
  • The issue has been forgotten by the community.
  • His contributions to the project had been forgotten over time.

Similar Words to “Forget”

Synonyms for Involuntary Forgetfulness:
The following words express different degrees of accidentally failing to remember something:

MissOften implies a slight degree of forgetfulness.
OverlookSometimes used when an important detail is unintentionally ignored.
DisregardCan suggest a negligent act of overlooking something.
NeglectImplies failure to give proper attention to something.

Synonyms for Intentional Disregard:
These terms often refer to the act of intentionally choosing to ignore or not acknowledge something:

  • Ignore: To intentionally pay no attention to.
  • Unlearn: To discard the memory of something, often a habit or a learned fact.
  • Omit: To leave out or exclude, either deliberately or by oversight.
  • Bypass: To avoid something by going around it.

Differences in Usage
Depending on the context, these words carry different implications. “Miss” and “overlook” suggest inadvertence, whereas “ignore” conveys a more deliberate action. To “unlearn” is to make an effort to erase the memory of something from one’s knowledge or habits. When we “omit” something, it can either be a conscious decision or an accidental mistake. “Bypass” indicates an active decision to avoid.

Tracing the Origin of “Forget”

Old English Roots:
forgietan – This is the closest ancestor in Old English, meaning to forget, and was constructed from “for-“, a prefix implying a sense of loss, and “gietan,” meaning to grasp or get.

Proto-Germanic Influence:
vergētaną – The likely source in Proto-Germanic, directly influencing the Old English form. The prefix “ver-” suggested a sense of passing away or mistaken actions.

Ancient Linguistic Relations:

Gothicfra-itanto forget
Old Saxonforgitanto forget
Old High Germanfirgezzanto forget

Evolution of Use:

  • In Middle English, the form “forgeten” was commonplace, gradually transitioning to “forget” in Modern English.
  • The complexity of the word’s sense arose in historical languages, branching out from the notion of something moving forward or away from one’s thoughts.


Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of forget.” Online Etymology Dictionary, 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply