The verb: Remember

Remember to vs. remember + ing form: cosa cambia? Semplicemente il significato della frase! Ricordarsi di fare qualcosa o avere memoria di un fatto accaduto… consolatevi: si confondono anche i madrelingua! – LANGUAGE LEVEL B2 (UPPER INTERMEDIATE)

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)
The verb “to remember” in English can be difficult because it changes meaning or use according to (1) what you add to it. For example, if somebody says to you: “Did you remember to buy the milk?” It doesn’t mean “Do you have pleasant memories (2) of buying the milk?”  It’s “Did you actually (3) remember to do the thing that I asked you to do? And I hope that you didn’t forget!” And the answer is, you hope, “Yes, of course, I did remember to buy the milk” or “Sorry, I’m afraid (4) I completely forgot.” But if you say to somebody “Do you remember buying the milk?” it’s different, it means “Do you actually have the memory of the action, and this could be a nostalgic reflection on the experience of buying milk. Now, Italians and other nationalities find this quite complicated and they often make mistakes but, if it’s any consolation, native speakers make mistakes as well, and indeed (5), in the August issue of Speak Up, which has New York on the cover, we have a very nice interview with a man who runs a drive-in theater (6) in Los Angeles, and he, at one point, says – he’s talking about “We have a lot of older people who come and they just want to relive something from their youth (7), you know, going to the drive-in. We get a lot of stories of remembering to do that from the ‘70s and ‘80s and that kind of thing.” Now, as we explain in our “Speak Up explains,” that is actually wrong (8). What he should have said is “We have a lot of stories of people remembering doing that in the 1970s and ‘80s.” So, if you have difficulties with choosing between remember to… and… to do something and remember doing something, don’t get demoralized: a lot of native speakers make the same mistake.


1    according to: a seconda di
2    pleasant memories: il piacevole ricordo
3    actually: davvero, veramente
4    I’m afraid: mi dispiace
5    indeed: infatti
6    runs a drive-in theater: gestisce un cinema stile drive-in
7    youth: giovinezza
8   (that) is actually wrong: in realtà è sbagliato

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