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In Taylor Swift's I bet you think about me, a lyrical line says

I'm harder to forget than I was to leave.

I've been thinking about the meaning for a while and come up with the following explanation:

It means both "forgetting me" and "leaving me" are hard but the former is even harder. The usage of present tense in "I'm harder to forget" is to express this is ever-present.

Does it make sense? Also, do native speakers use this structure to describe things like that usually? I barely see similar structure in other contexts though, so I am not even sure it is grammatically correct. Any comment and help will be absolutely appreciated!!

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    Never assume that a song lyric or a line of a poem is a common construction or even grammatically correct. You should not try to learn proper English grammar from songs. That said, I agree with your interpretation of the meaning.
    – randomhead
    Dec 2, 2021 at 15:45
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    "I'm harder (now, in the present) to forget than I was (then, in the past) to leave" seems entirely appropriate use of tenses. Dec 2, 2021 at 15:50
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    He thought he could leave her without feeling any pain, but now, for him, her memory persists. Dec 2, 2021 at 15:59
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    Comparisons using two different tenses are very common in English: This is more difficult for me to say than it was to write.
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:15
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    It is easier for me to make love to a beautiful woman now than it will be when I'm aged 90. Dec 2, 2021 at 17:19

1 Answer 1

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Comparison using two different verb tenses:

Let's put this in the third person and the second clause in the past tense, because it is easier to "see/hear":

  • She is harder to forget than she was to leave. Meaning: It is harder to forget her (now) than it was to leave her (then).

Another example:

  • They are harder to play with than they were to fight with. Meaning: It is harder to play with them (now) than it was to fight with (them then).

Now, back to Taylor Swift:

I'm harder to forget than I was to leave.

The comparison can be tricky as it mixes two verb tenses, which is fine but can sound off when it isn't.

Meaning: I'm harder to forget [now] than I was to leave [then].

Mixing verb tenses in a comparison of actions like this is fine, if it works.

Other examples with other tenses:

  • It's been easier jogging in the morning than it was playing tennis in the evening.
  • They'll be easier to deal with now than they were last week.
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  • Cross-posted with me. Perfect. Dec 2, 2021 at 16:00
  • @MichaelWokeHarvey So, amigo, when didya become woke? Was it that dog thing? :)
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:13
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    Somebody, a well established member, responded angrily to a comment of mine and said they had no time for "woke nonsense" from "social justice warriors". Right wing code for "commie perverts". Funny how you can go off people. I decided that as I am glad to be thought progressive and in favour of decency, to own the epithet. Dec 2, 2021 at 16:47
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    Straight away started getting downvotes :-) Dec 2, 2021 at 16:48
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    @MichaelWokeHarvey I'm widya. :) Woke me too. Ha ha. Think I saw that comment and it just seemed completely over the top to me. Cheers, luv. Some of 'em ain't got no sense of humour, innit?
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:57

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