I've read that is possible to say I forget or I don't understand (present tense) even if it seems past. For example:

Q: What's the name of that new restaurant on the corner?
A: I'm sorry. I forget.

The same with I don't understand. The person tells me something, but I can't get the meaning, so I say:

I'm, sorry. I don't understand.

Why and when we can use the present tense with these verbs meaning the past?

  • Thank you for editing it. I've started today here. I'm trying to learn all the rules. – Fabibr May 23 '17 at 19:19

In both of these situations neither of you is interested in the past event but in your present state of memory or understanding. In effect, forget and understand are 'recategorized' as stative verbs reporting your present state.

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  • How interesting. So if I want further reading I'll try to look under the stative verbs. Great! Would it be considered incorrect to say them in the past or it's a matter of choice? – Fabibr May 23 '17 at 19:12
  • @Fabibr Use past if you're talking about a past situation. "He told me, but I didn't understand". – StoneyB on hiatus May 23 '17 at 21:14
  • @Fabibr Use past if you're talking about a past situation -- but don't use Stoney's example, that's still present. "Did you put the car in the garage last night?" "No, I forgot." "Did you tell Mikey to put the car in the garage last night?" "Yes, he understood." – EllieK Oct 9 '17 at 13:05
  • @EllieK In what sense is "He told me but I didn't understand" present? – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 9 '17 at 13:18
  • @StoneyB It's not, sorry. I was providing some simple past examples. – EllieK Oct 9 '17 at 13:30

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