She: "Don't forget to bring washing powder.

I: Okay, I don't. (or I will not?)

I know the rule of thumb that in interrogative sentences we always have to answer in the same tense that we were asked. (For example: Are you there? Yes, I am. or "Do you like it? Yes, I do.) But in this case which is not interrogative sentence but an order, I'm not sure what would be correct.


In your example the responses:

  • "Okay."
  • "I won't."
  • "Okay, I won't."
  • "Don't worry, I won't."

are all colloquial and correct.

"I don't" sounds odd and is incorrect.

"I will not" is technically correct but sounds stilted and a native speaker would never use it in this situation.

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    "I don't" isn't incorrect, it's an assertion that I'm not the kind of person who forgets such things. "I will not" is emphatic and could easily be used in earnest or sarcastically. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Sep 23 '19 at 7:18
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    @chrylis I think that "I don't" can be used here and it means exactly what you said but "Okay, I don't" (which the OP proposed) sounds really odd to me in this context. I'm not a native speaker though. Or maybe it depends on the way you say it. – 41686d6564 Sep 23 '19 at 8:51
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    I wouldn't say that "I don't" is a correct response, it sounds odd to me. To make that assertion I'd be more likely to respond with "I wouldn't!", "I'd never!" or something similar. – The6P4C Sep 23 '19 at 10:57
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    Sorry @chrylis a native speaker would never say “I don’t” in the example given – Jonah Sep 23 '19 at 11:45
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    To add to what @charmer said, you could say, "I never do." And I suppose if you meant "I don't" in the same sense, that is, in the sense of "I don't (in general)" and your tone conveyed that, it could be correct. While "I never do" would be perfectly colloquial here, I think "I don't" would be quite rare in this sense (for this particular circumstance) and is a nuance that would probably confuse matters for non-native speakers. – Jonah Sep 23 '19 at 12:30

Your example uses the negative. Let's start with a positive version and go from there.

Remember to bring the washing powder!

This is an order (the imperative), and the verbs "to remember" and "to forget" imply the future in an order:

Remember to bring the washing powder [when you come over later]!

So the response must be about the future as well. Two common ways of talking about the future are "will" and "be going to".

Okay, I will [remember] [when I come over later]!

Okay, I'm (I am) going to [remember] [when I come over later]!

It's not:

*Okay, I remember [right now]!

The negative in English requires do-support for most verbs, including "to remember" and "to forget". It's not natural to say:

*Forget not to bring the washing powder!

Instead we say:

Don't (do not) forget to bring the washing powder!

We still have to reply using the future, so it's:

Okay, I will not [forget] [when I come over later]!

Okay, I'm (I am) not going to [forget] [when I come over later]!

If you use "I don't" it means you're talking about habitual behaviour.

Don't drive through any red lights!

It's okay, I don't [drive through red lights] [anyway]!

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  • Agree. The original imperative implies the future (do not forget). It sounds like the present tense (you do not forget; you are not forgetting), but it's actually about something in the future (you should not forget something later). – whiskeychief Sep 24 '19 at 9:41

It would also be polite to thank the first speaker for the reminder.

"I won't forget, thanks for reminding me"

or just

"OK, thanks"

I could only see a native speaker saying, "I don't" with a testy, negative connotation meaning "You don't have to remind me, I never forget things like that" but even then it would be more typical to say "I never do"

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In English, 'don't X' has an implied future to it. In your example, we get something like "Do not forget to buy washing powder when you go out shopping in the future."

You would then respond with (literally): "Okay, I will not forget washing powder when I go out shopping."

Because you both understand the context that you are talking about "buying washing powder when you go out shopping," you shorten your phrasing to "I won't," where "won't" is the contraction of "will" and "not."

I can't think of a situation off-hand where you would say "I don't" in response to that, however "I didn't" could be said if you bought washing powder in the past that your conversation partner doesn't know about.

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  • "I don't" could be a response to something like "I hope you don't ride your bike without a helmet". – Barmar Sep 23 '19 at 14:37
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    @Barmar but that's not future tense. – RonJohn Sep 24 '19 at 16:51

I think this is one of the very few cases where a contraction can be used but the full version not.

Don't (Do not) forget to bring the washing powder. — I won't.

works while

Don't (Do not) forget to bring the washing powder. — I will not.

cannot really stand well on its own and would want to be

Don't (Do not) forget to bring the washing powder. — I will not forget.

Note that if you want to sound old-fashioned British correct, you'd use

Don't (Do not) forget to bring the washing powder. — I shan't.

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  • Actually, "I shan't" would be old-fashioned British wrong. – Dawood ibn Kareem Sep 24 '19 at 4:27
  • Your first two examples "I won't" and "I will not" are identical. The first is merely a contraction of the second: so your comment on the second 'cannot really stand well...' is in contradiction to your comment that "I won't" 'works'. – charmer Sep 24 '19 at 9:57
  • @DawoodibnKareem why is "I shall not" wrong? As a native AmE speaker, it sounds perfectly fine (though obviously archaic.) – RonJohn Sep 24 '19 at 16:52
  • @RonJohn back in the days when there was a real distinction between "I will" and "I shall", the difference was that "I will" (or "we will") had a connotation of an intention, a determinedness, or a promise - "I don't intend to forget the laundry powder"; whereas "I shall" (or "we shall") was a simple prediction of the future - "I'd better bring the laundry powder now, because I shall probably forget it later". In this case, "I won't" would have been the correct form. – Dawood ibn Kareem Sep 24 '19 at 19:21

From a former ESL student - the problem is that the rule cited in the question is only applicable to answering questions. It is not applicable to conversations in general.

"Did you forget so-and-so?" - "No, I did not"

"Please do not forget so-and-so" - "No, I will not"

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