Do I have to specify the time when I say "How silly of me!" in the past?

Let's say I'm telling a friend about something silly that I did in the past, and I say:

How silly of me (it was) not to suspect that!

Is "it was" implicit in this case—since my friend understands that I'm telling him about a past experience—or do I strictly have to add it?

Please note, I know that I could say:

It was silly of me not to suspect that

But I want to maintain the first sentence structure.

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    In practice, I think most instances of the construction How [adjective] of X to [do Y] would be referring to something X did do, in the past. Apr 8, 2022 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


I found a mind-boggling number of results for "How silly of me not to do X" and the context in all of them is about the past. Here are a few examples:

How silly of me not to recognize him.

How silly of me not to remember you.

How silly of me not to realize that.

How silly of me not to take care of it.

How silly of me not to have planned ahead.

When I have Google Translate translate them into Persian as stand-alone sentences, it translates them using the present tense, so it seems that if there is context, the "it was" is implicit and there's no need to mention it, but if it's a stand-alone sentence out of context, we'd better use "it was" to remove any and all doubt.

  • If the sentences you quote were being spoken by one person to another, not all of them would be about the past. Apr 8, 2022 at 13:10
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    @Ronald Sole True. That's why I checked the context and made sure they were talking about the past. It doesn't have to be far past. For example, when the person says "How silly of me not to remember you." he's talking about just a few moments ago, i.e. before the other person introduced himself/herself to them. But it's still past time. Apr 8, 2022 at 13:21
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    That's fair comment! Apr 8, 2022 at 13:29
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    Context supplies the tense. How silly of me to hold this stick of dynamite when the fuse has less than an inch to burn. Apr 8, 2022 at 14:37
  • @Michael Harvey Exactly, and your example is in the present tense. Apr 8, 2022 at 14:45

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