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In a conversation like:

Person 1: You can read a map, can’t you?

Person 2: Yes, I can. But I left my glasses in England.

Does the verb "leave" mean that Person 2 forgot to bring his glasses, or that he left them intentionally because he thought he wouldn't be in need for them?

Thank you.

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    What's the context? There could be some wit to the response that might not be obvious. "left" can be both unintentional and intentional, also usually cleared out in the context.
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 24, 2019 at 10:51

1 Answer 1

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The word left can mean leaving something behind deliberately or unintentionally (i.e., through forgetfulness).

So, for a sentence like:

I left my umbrella at home.

there is no way to tell if that was intentional or not. However, sometimes context will make it obvious which is case:

I meant to bring my hat, but I left it on the countertop.

Clearly that is an unintentional act, whereas:

I didn't think I'd need a map, so I left the atlas at home.

implies a deliberate decision as opposed to an act of forgetfulness.

M-W has two definitions which seem to account for both of these cases:

leave (verb)

a : to cause or allow to be or remain in a specified condition
leave the door open

b : to fail to include or take along
left the notes at home

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    The two M-W senses aren't intentional vs unintentional, but object-in-state vs object-in-place. Both a and b could be both intentional and unintentional. Jun 25, 2019 at 4:01
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    Can anyone confirm whether in AmE you might also say "I forgot my glasses in England"? (where 'forgot' carries the meaning of 'left because I forgot about') I don't think you'd ever say this in BrE, but I seem to recall an American colleague of mine saying things like that.
    – Tim
    Jun 25, 2019 at 8:45
  • @curiousdannii - "Cause or allow" sounds intentional to me, while "fail to include or take along" sounds accidental to me. I agree that leave the door open and left the notes at home could both be intentional or unintentional.
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2019 at 14:04
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    @Tim - I might say, "I left my glasses in England," or, "I forgot my glasses," but, "I forgot my glasses in England" sounds a bit off to my American ear, too.
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2019 at 14:07

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