I know there are 2 questions in my question but....

Why did the person email me "I did not forget you" when I had written in a previous mail "don't forget me please, I still need these books". Why did he not answer "I have not forgotten you"? There is a present relevance in my question.

When I reported his answer one week after he said it, shall I write he said he did not forget me or he had not forgotten. I think the second choice is the best because the fact of not having forgotten started before he said it.

  • You only need the Past Perfect (had [not] forgotten) if you're in some "narrative context" focused on some point in time earlier than time of speaking, but later than the time of the time of "forgetting". In your context, the focus is probably on the present, so you could reasonably go for Present Perfect He has not forgotten. But syntactically speaking He did not forget me is simpler, and it works fine for both contexts, so you should probably tend to prefer it. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 13:03
  • may be it is simpler but he does not indicate clearly that at the time of speaking he still remembered my name
    – Yves Lefol
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 17:14
  • Pragmatically, I did not forget would always imply I have not forgotten if the fact of not forgetting / having forgotten was still relevant at time of speaking. Because this is pragmatically obvious, it's not necessary to use Present Perfect in your context - if the speaker wants to slightly shift the "temporal focus" (back to that time in the past where he could have forgot, but didn't), he can do so. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 17:26
  • ...warming to my theme, it's very natural to do this if the speaker is thinking back to some point in the past when he actually did something (because he didn't forget to do it), as opposed to simply pointing out that right now, at time of speaking he still remembers whatever it is that he hasn't forgotten. In such a context, Simple Past is actually preferred Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


As you said for yourself, there is relevance to the present situation. So grammatically present perfect would come there.

Why did the person emailed me "I did not forget you" [...]?

Well this maybe because he is not a native speaker. Or he might have thought no-one would notice the mistake or the slip-up. Or he might have thought that this is the correct tense (even after being a native speaker). Anything could have happened. By the way, the correct sentence should be:

Why did the person email me "I did not forget you" [...]? (Simple Past for emailing instance)

When reporting it to someone else, you could use either of them¹ did not forget or had not forgotten, given the first person said it in simple past tense: "I did not forget you"

He had emailed me saying that he did not forget me/had not forgotten me. (Past Perfect for emailing instance)

However, if the first person wrote it like: "I have not forgotten you", then you must use had not forgotten. This is called backshifting the tense.

He had emailed me saying that he had not forgotten me. (Past Perfect for emailing instance)

¹ Here is one reference site where it is stated that simple past in reported speech could take either simple past or past perfect (refer to the table). But there is ambiguity in the context then. The third person would think the first person said it in simple present tense which you converted into simple past tense or simple past converted into simple past tense.

However, this is the only site I could find which follows such rules. Majority of the site say otherwise.

According to this and this site, simple past goes into past perfect, no exceptions. But then again, past perfect could mean the original sentence was either in present perfect or simple past.

Conclusion: This is particularly an ambiguous topic in itself. Although people would rarely notice any omission or slip while in a talk, it may matter in educational outcomes and written format.

  • but if I wrote " he said he did not forget" could we think that it is backshifting from present ? and that is not true
    – Yves Lefol
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 22:30
  • Yes it is true. Backshifting from present tense does contain its past form. To avoid confusion you can use past perfect tense for reporting past tense, non-ambiguously. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 20:37
  • @YvesLefol Okay so I found a couple of links which will thoroughly clear your doubt regarding this concept. The answer was based on my knowledge. But now I have some solid constructions as well. I need time to edit it. It is currently 2:55 am where I live, and I am sleepy. I would request you to kindly wait till tomorrow for a fresh updated answer. I hope you would consider. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 21:26
  • @YvesLefol I have edited the answer. See it now, if you still have query, feel free to ask. Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 23:27

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