What’s the Difference? (1): Forget vs. Leave

NB. This explanation refers to British English. 

Here’s the situation: You get to your English class and you realise you have forgotten to bring your notebook. Yikes!

You can either tell your teacher,

“Sorry, I’ve forgotten my notebook,”


“Sorry, I’ve left my notebook at home.”

However, you CAN’T say, “Sorry, I’ve forgotten my notebook at home.”


When you talk about the location, the place where the object is, or where it could be, use ‘leave’ do not use ‘forget’, despite the fact that the reason why it is there is that you forgot it!

Usually the structure is like this:

Forget + object

Leave + object + place where it is now


He has forgotten his wallet.  


He has left his wallet in the car.

I can’t find my phone. I must have forgotten to bring it


I can’t find my phone. I hope I didn’t leave it in the restaurant/at the office.

On a further note, of course you could leave something (or somebody) in a place on purpose, but usually the context will tell us whether the action was deliberate or not.

I left my laptop at home because my sister wanted to borrow it. (deliberate)

The children weren’t interested in coming so we left them at home with granny. (deliberate)

Oh no! I’ve left my passport on the plane. I’m going to go back and get it. (I forgot it)

She was in such a rush that she left her presentation at home. (She forgot it)

Time to check!

Add the correct form of ‘forget’ or ‘leave’.

1.  Here are your sunglasses. You _____ them in my car yesterday.

2.  Bryan couldn’t play football because he had   _____ his kit.

3.  You should _____ your phone in your bag so you don’t _____ to take it with you.

4.  I’m really sorry but I _____ your umbrella on the bus.

5.  Where did you _____ your coat? It’s not here.

6.  “Oh my goodness, I’ve _____ my purse. Do you mind paying for the drinks?”

2 thoughts on “What’s the Difference? (1): Forget vs. Leave”

  1. Can you combine both estructures? Like: Oh no! I’ve forgotten my passport, I think I left it on the plane…

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