Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Olvidar - Olvidarse - Part 4

OK, let's see if we can put everything together from the previous posts. You can view all the other posts here.

Sticking with our examples, below is a compilation of all three ways to say "I forgot":

Did you go to the bank?
No, se me olvidó
No, me olvidé
No, (yo) olvidé

I forgot the keys
Se me olvidaron las llaves
Me olvidé las llaves
Olvidé las llaves

I forgot about him a long ago
Hace mucho que se me olvidó de él
Hace mucho que me olvidé de él
Lo olvidé hace mucho (tiempo)

I forgot to call you
Se me olvidó de llamarte
Me olvidé de llamarte
Olvidé llamarte

I forgot the book
Se me olvidó el libro
Me olvidé del libro
Olvidé el libro

I forgot to bring the keys
Se me olvidó  traer las llaves
Me olvidé de traer las llaves
Olvidé traer las llaves

I forgot to call you
Se me olvidó llamarte
Me olvidé de llamarte
Olvidé llamarte

Each of these sentences can be expressed three different ways, and all three translations convey the same meaning. So what's the difference, which one do we use? Well, it comes down to what many things in Spanish boil down to, regionalisms and personal preference. In other words, Spanish speakers from different parts of the world may prefer one option over the other.

The reality of it is, you'll hear all of these constructions at some point in time. You'll even find that a native speaker will use different constructions in different situations.

Hopefully this series of posts has been helpful, and will make things a little easier for you than it was for me.


***NOTE: There are 4 parts to this subject, and you can see them all by clicking here


  1. Very helpful Rodney as always. Thank you. I have only one comment. I don't think that "Me olvidé el libro" is used very much. Here where I am in México "Olvidé el libro" and "Se me olvidó el libro" are the two forms generally used and they are interchangeable. There is a popular song by Julio Iglesias from Spain entitled "Me olvidé de vivir" so I think perhaps "Me olvidé" is used with an infinitive object and not with a noun but I am not sure. For me, reflexive verbs have always been a problem and probably always will :)

  2. I think you have a slight error here:

    No, (yo) olvidé

    My research tells me this sounds bad to native speakers of Spanish. "Olvidar" is transitive, it MUST take a direct object, most easily accomplished with the direct object pronoun "lo."

    No, (yo) lo olvidé.

    The "pronominal" olvidarse is NOT TRANSITIVE.
    So it is fine as "No, me olvidé"

    Of course most Spanish speakers have no idea of the "grammar," which is a pain! "Lo olvidé" just "sounds right" to them -- hopefully that will happen to us, as learners, as well...

    1. John, Although the better part of 3 years has passed, I'm finally responding to your comments. Más tarde que nunca, right? Hopefully this will help someone.

      Anyway, grammar rules aside, "(yo) olvidé" is something you'll see and hear in everyday speech. A Google search for "yo olvidé" will produce plenty of results:

      - hey sorry yo olvide llamarte en tu cumple


      - Yo olvidé lo que es vivir

      Transitive or not, that's how people speak, and that's what this blog is all about - the living, breathing Spanish that exists outside of the grammar books.