In this lesson, you’ll learn 7 English phrases that you can use in conversation to explain that you forget something.
We all forget things. It happens to everyone. It can be embarrassing sometimes. Let’s quickly review the basic ways to say you forget something:
I can’t remember.
I don’t remember.
I’m sorry I wasn’t at the meeting. I forgot about it.
We forget things in different ways, and in English there are different phrases you can use to communicate that you forget something.
1. “I lost my train of thought.”
lose your train of thought
= forget what you were thinking, right in the middle of thinking about it
A “train of thought” = a connected series of thoughts or ideas in your head
You’re telling someone a story or about an idea you had, but you get distracted, or you are interrupted by something, and you forget what you were talking about.
What was I saying? I lost my train of thought.
I was in the middle of telling a story, but the phone rang and I lost my train of thought.
2. “It slipped my mind.”
slip one’s mind
= forget something
I can’t believe I forgot her birthday. It completely slipped my mind!
We had a meeting at 1pm today. Did it slip your mind?
He forgot to get some milk at the grocery store. I guess it just slipped his mind.
Pronunciation note: Remember, the -ed at the of slipped is pronounced /t/. The -ed is not pronounced as a separate syllable.
3. “It’s on the tip of my tongue!”
be on the tip of one’s tongue
You know that you know something, but you can’t remember it at that moment!
I know this! I know this! It’s on the tip of my tongue! His name is … oh, I can’t remember!
Wait. Don’t tell me. I know this song. The name is on the tip of my tongue!
4. “It doesn’t ring a bell.”
ring a bell
= something is familiar, but you can’t completely remember it
His name rings a bell, but I can’t remember what he looks like.
Have you seen that new TV show, the one about the married couple?
~ It doesn’t ring a bell.
= it doesn’t sound familiar, I don’t recognize it
5. “It went in one ear and out the other.”
go in one ear and out the other
= forget something as soon as you hear it, forget something quickly
You are listening to someone speaking, but you are not really listening carefully. When the other person says something, you hear it but you don’t remember it.
He told me is his name, but it went in one ear & out the other.
She won’t remember. Everything you tell her goes in one ear and out the other!
I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what you said. It went in one ear and out the other. I’m very distracted today.
Be careful! This is not a nice thing to say to someone, because you are saying that you aren’t paying attention to him or her!
6. “Can you refresh my memory?”
refresh one’s memory
= help someone remember something
It doesn’t ring a bell. Can you refresh my memory?
I have to read my notes again from the previous meeting to refresh my memory.
Be careful! “Let me refresh your memory” is a common phrase, but it can have a negative meaning. People like to forget bad or negative experiences. Sometimes people say “let me refresh your memory” in an angry way to make someone remember something negative.
“You don’t remember me? Let me refresh your memory. You stole my phone!“
7. “I had a senior moment.”
have a senior moment
(usually said by older people)
= a humorous way of saying that you momentarily can’t remember something simple because you are getting older
You can blame forgetting something on your age!
A senior citizen is an older person, usually someone who is 65 or older. (Sixty-five is the official retirement age in many countries.) Senior is often used by itself as a shortened form of senior citizen.
I had a senior moment. I forgot what my new car looked like and I spent 20 minutes looking for it in the parking lot.
I had a senior moment yesterday. I thought my brother was my son.
People like to joke that they are getting old when they are 30 or 40 years old. Sometimes a young person will say “I had a senior moment” or “I’m having a senior moment” as a way to say that they are getting old.