'Forget to Do' or 'Forget Doing'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

Forget to Do or Forget Doing: What Is the Difference?

Forget to do something suggests that someone has failed to remember to perform a task or action that they were supposed to do:

✅ I completely forgot to buy milk on my way home, so we'll have to do without it for breakfast.

✅ Please remind me because I always forget to sign my name on the documents.

✅ She forgot to make a reservation, and now all the restaurants are fully booked.

I'm late because I forgot to set the alarm last night.

Forget doing something indicates that someone did perform an action in the past but does not remember the act of doing it. The action was completed, but it has slipped from their memory:

✅ How could you forget being at Tom's birthday party? You bought him a large cake, remember?

✅ Ann has already locked the door, but she forgot having done so.

✅ I had forgotten seeing this man until I saw his photo in the newspaper.

✅ I'll never forget visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time; the view was simply breathtaking.

In summary, forget to do something means 'not remembering to perform a task', while forget doing something means 'not remembering the act of performing a task that was already completed'.

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Examples from the Media

It is normal to forget to buy an item or two from the store, but not to forget that you just went to the store. Toronto Star (2017)

A driver who forgot to put on the handbrake when he parked his car has demolished part of a home after the runaway vehicle bulldozed through the property. Daily Mail (2024)

During the game, the patient forgot having played each hole or making each stroke within minutes of having done so. The New York Times (1990)

Elena came to visit me in New York once and I'll never forget seeing the city through her eyes. The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)


Choose the correct option to complete each sentence.

1. Dad forgot to shut/shutting down his computer, and it stayed on all night.

2. Did you forget to take/taking out the rubbish again? It's overflowing.

3. I'll never forget to fail/failing the French test. It was awful.

4. She's going to be upset with me; I forgot to call/calling her back.

5. My plants are dying because I forgot to water/watering them while I was on holiday.

6. I forgot to charge/charging my mobile phone, and now it's dead at the worst possible time.

7. Sometimes I find photos on my smartphone that I completely forgot to have taken/having taken.

8. I won't forget to meet/meeting you at the conference last year; your speech was inspiring.

Answer Key

1. to shut    2. to take    3. failing    4. to call    5. to water    6. to charge    7. having taken    8. meeting

Recommended Further Reading

'Remember to Do' or 'Remember Doing'?

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