5

Having said that is a really well-known phrase used to mean however, but is it OK to say

I don't remember having said that

instead of saying

I don't remember saying that.

What is this grammar topic named?

7
  • What do you mean by “grammar topic”? Are you looking for the term present perfect, which is the name of the tense? Sep 8, 2023 at 4:22
  • 2
    @PaulTanenbaum The present perfect structure as far as I know is Have+past participle, I have never seen it with "having" I thought this would be called something like perfect participle or something like that
    – Quique
    Sep 8, 2023 at 4:55
  • 2
    It's fine. There's little difference between the two; essentially just two slightly different ways of saying the same thing, though the version with "having" does tend to convey a sense of current relevance.
    – BillJ
    Sep 8, 2023 at 7:52
  • "Having said that" only means "however" when it's used as a conjunction to relate two statements. Your use of the phrase in the first example is unrelated to this, it's just the ordinary past perfect.
    – Barmar
    Sep 8, 2023 at 14:55
  • 1
    This is not exactly an answer to your question but if you add more to the sentence it will mean something different: "I don't remember saying that when he left" and "I don't remember having said that when he left" suggest totally different timelines.
    – Casey
    Sep 10, 2023 at 3:41

3 Answers 3

3
  • On Monday, I made a speech, in which I said “Ice is cool”.
  • On Tuesday, I watched a recording of the speech, and remembered saying “Ice is cool”.
  • On Wednesday, I crossed the river Lima, and lost all memory of Monday.
  • On Thursday, I had no recollection of saying “Ice is cool”: I did not remember saying it. However, I remembered watching the recording on Tuesday, and that I had said “Ice is cool”: I remembered having said it.
  • On Friday, I accidentally forgot the whole past week.
  • On Saturday, I re-discovered the recording. While I became aware that I must have said “Ice is cool”, I neither remembered saying it or having said it.

There is a subtle difference between remembering an event, and remembering that the event has occurred: the latter includes indirect recollection as well. However, situations where the distinction is relevant are rare, so “I remember saying that” and “I remember having said that” are plesionymous. A difference in meaning is unlikely to be perceived unless the two are contrasted, such as: explicitly, in the sentence

I don't remember saying it, but I remember having said it.

(note: the emphasis is meaningful); or if the speaker is known to be pedantic about such things, such that their choice of words is conspicuous.

Another example would be “I remember saying that” and “I remember when I said that”: the meanings might diverge if the speaker is plural, a time traveller, or was completely out of it at the time, but an English speaker is unlikely to perceive any of these meanings without further context. (“When I said that” might also refer to the wider events surrounding / resulting from the (presumably notable) utterance: this meaning is likely to be understood with minimal context.)

10
  • On Thursday, I had no recollection of saying “Ice is cool”: I did not remember saying it. However, I remembered watching the recording on Tuesday, and that I had said “Ice is cool”: I remembered having said it. That doesn't look like an "explanation" to me - it looks more like an "oxymoron". Are you suggesting that there would be a difference (in either meaning or "idiomacy") if those two constructions were swapped? I can't see what difference it would make. Sep 9, 2023 at 18:51
  • @FumbleFingers In the quoted passage, the bit before each colon is a special case of the bit after the colon. It's the difference between "I remember when I said it" and "I remember when it was necessarily the case that I said it".
    – wizzwizz4
    Sep 9, 2023 at 19:10
  • I understand what you're trying to say. I just don't accept that many if any native anglophones would either intend or understand any such semantic distinction. Sep 10, 2023 at 10:21
  • @wizzwizz4 you may be grammatically correct, but as FumbleFingers says almost no-one that you meet outside of an English Professor's office would actually interpret a distinction.
    – Brondahl
    Sep 10, 2023 at 16:12
  • @Brondahl In ordinary speech, no, but lots of things in English are like that: synonymous until somebody emphasises the distinction. ”I don't remember saying it, but I remember having said it.” seems like perfectly valid (and meaningful) spoken English to me.
    – wizzwizz4
    Sep 10, 2023 at 16:18
7

I don’t remember having said that is perfectly idiomatic. Prescriptivists would likely quibble about its tense: “What you say you don’t remember is ever occupying the state earlier than which you said that.” But I wouldn’t recommend concerning yourself about it.

It is true, of course, that I don’t remember saying that gets it done more simply and cleanly.

4
  • 3
    I don't know if I am an especially 'careful' native speaker, but I think I might say either that I don't remember doing or saying something or that I am not aware of having done or said it. Remembering having done something is different from remembering doing it. Sep 8, 2023 at 8:16
  • @Paul Tanenbaum What does than which mean? I cannot find it anywhere.
    – Quique
    Sep 9, 2023 at 18:31
  • 2
    It’s “earlier than which.” See @MichaelHarvey’s comment. For the difference between your two, compare to this: Suppose that in the midst of eating a meal you suddenly and instantly passed out, to wake up six hours later. In that example, if someone asked immediately on your reviving to describe your memories, you might report that you remembered eating (because you were conscious while you ate), but you did not remember having eaten (because, due to your fainting, your had no recollection of any point after you were eating, your most recent memory was of eating). Sep 9, 2023 at 19:26
  • If I remember killing my mother-in-law, I recall getting the gun out, pulling the trigger, the bang the gun made. Remembering having killed her involves the guilt (or lack of it), my wife's screams, the arrival of the police, the newspaper headlines, the start of my jail sentence, etc. Sep 9, 2023 at 19:55
6

These two phrases have nuanced differences, but in actual practical contexts the difference is de minimis.

I don't remember saying that.

I don't remember having said that.

The first focuses on the act of saying, on the speech-act itself. The second broadens the focus to include not only the speech-act but also its immediate aftermath: the "saying" resulted in a statement made on an occasion.

To paraphrase those sentences in a manner that exaggerates the nuanced difference:

I don't remember those words coming out of my mouth.

I don't remember such a statement uttered by me and being present after making the statement.

I understand I don't remember having said that to be a more definite denial in that having said includes by implication a context in which the utterance took place. The speaker remembers the context and remembers that he did not make such a statement.

These are aspect differences.

1
  • Yeah, it's possible to be certain you said something but not remember exactly when or where, so you might remember having said it, but not remember saying it.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 10, 2023 at 12:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .