I recently talked to a native speaker and he told me that we can't say:

I regret I didn't do it.

And that we should say instead:

I regret not doing it.

I understand why he second sentence is right. But what's wrong with the first one? Why can we say:

I suggested I should do it.

I forgot I did it.

I explained I did it.

Why can't we say that?

I regret I didn't do it.

What's the difference?

I mean the verbs can follow at least one of the patters: verb to do sth or verb doing sth and verb (that) sb did/does sth. So there should always be at least two ways of using each verb. Why not in the case of regret?

Are there any other verbs which can't be used like that (verb (that) sb does/did something)?

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    I am not native, but I have never heard something like "I forgot I did it" – Cardinal Mar 9 '16 at 21:34
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    As a native speaker of US English, I don't see anything wrong with "I regret (that) I didn't do it." There are many examples of the pattern in current usage. I think the person who gave you that advice was wrong. – stangdon Mar 9 '16 at 21:51
  • @stangdon, what about I forgot I did it? And can it vary between American Engliish and British English? The person who told me that is a Britor. – user2738748 Mar 9 '16 at 21:55
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    "I forgot (that) I did it" sounds good to me also. Maybe it's a difference between American and British English, but I would be very surprised to learn that. – stangdon Mar 9 '16 at 22:10
  • "I regret I didn't do it" is ambiguous. It can mean "I didn't do it, and I wish I had done", or "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't do it" – Michael Kay Mar 1 '17 at 22:04

I regret I didn't do it.
I regret I didn't do that.
I regret not doing it.

Are all understandable, have the same meaning, and are used by native speakers to say they regret not doing something.

I suggested (that) I should do it (instead of my brother).
Thanks for reminding me, I forgot I (already) did that.
I explained (to him that) I did it (instead of the other guy).

are other phrases which might be used in informal conversation.

I will say that "I regret I didn't do it" sounds more AmE than BrE. AmE speakers tend to use "I" much more that BrE speakers from my observations. For example, the Queen will famously use the royal "we".

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    The royal 'we' is used when the queen is speaking on behalf of the nation, and has nothing to do with any perceived reluctance to use the word I. – JavaLatte Mar 10 '16 at 7:52
  • While you are correct in citing the use of the royal we as a sovereign speaking for both themselves and the state or indeed themselves and God, the trickle down cannot be ignored "to avoid the English class no-no of using first person" as affected or of a time as it may be perceived to be here – Peter Mar 10 '16 at 15:34

A native speaker told you that we can't say...

As you can see, there is no agreement whether "I regret I didn't do it" is in any way inferior to "I regret not doing it". Even if it was slightly inferior, it is absolutely wrong to claim "we can't say" it.

Inserting "that" and saying "I regret that I didn't do it" is slightly better, but not to the degree that you must insert it.


"I regret" is a clause and "i didn't do it" is a clause. To be strictly grammatically correct, you should use a conjunction that to connect them together. In informal, spoken english, that is often omitted.

Sometimes that sounds right, sometimes it doesn't. The second sentence

I regret not doing it 

Is a bit of grammatical sleight of hand to avoid a turn of speech that many people find uncomfortable: the clause "I didn't do it" is replaced with the noun phrase "not doing it", so that no conjunction is required. In my opinion, inserting the conjunction makes a simpler and clearer sentence.

  • What do you mean by Sometimes that sounds right, sometimes it doesn't.? When does it sound good? When doesn't it? Why? – user2738748 Mar 10 '16 at 6:42
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    One of the great strengths of English, and its biggest weakness, is that there is no Universal Rule Book: it is dynamic, constantly adapting to meet changing needs. It changes at different rates and directions in different cultures, What may be acceptable one place, is not in another. Whether spoken or written, using that as a preposition in a sentence like this is always correct. In spoken English, It can be omitted, subject to local conventions. To sound like a local, you have to listen to the English people that you spend time with and learn those conventions. – JavaLatte Mar 10 '16 at 7:49

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