Leave/Forget

What’s the difference between leave and forget?

Leave and forget are often used incorrectly. Sometimes even native speakers get it wrong. These verbs both express that the subject did not remember to bring something with them, however we use these verbs in different contexts. Keep reading to find out the difference between leave and forget in English, then make sure you haven’t forgotten anything by doing the free interactive exercises.

Example

Ms Stephens is running late today.

When she got to the train station she realized that she had forgotten her handbag.

She left it in the hallway at home and had to go back to get it.

Hopefully she hasn’t left anything else behind.

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Leave or forget?

We say leave/forget + noun when we don’t remember to bring something with us. They have the same meaning, but we use them differently.

  • use forget when you don’t say where the item is
Example:
Ms Stephens forgot her handbag.
We don’t know where the handbag is
  • use leave when you want to say where the item is
Example:
She left her handbag in the hallway.
Not: She forgot her handbag in the hallway.
  • use leave when the action is deliberate. Do not use forget in this context.
Example:
Today, Ms Stephens is leaving the car at home and taking the train to work.

Leave and forget are both irregular verbs, you can find their conjugation as well as thousands of others in our verb conjugator. To learn about another pair of confusing words, check out our page on let vs. leave.