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Verbs of Remembering and Forgetting

'Recordar,' 'Olvidar' and Other Verbs

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The most common Spanish verbs of remembering and forgetting are recordar and olvidar, respectively.

Recordar: Here are some examples of recordar in use. Note that it is conjugated irregularly, following the pattern of contar — in other words, the -o- of the stem becomes -ue- when stressed.

  • Recuerdo que nuestro equipo era impresionante. I remember that our team was incredible.
  • ¿Ya no recuerdas cuando eras un niño? You still don't remember when you where a child?
  • Firefox no quiere recordar mis contraseñas. Firefox doesn't want to remember my passwords.
  • No recuerdo donde fue mi primer beso. I don't remember where my first kiss was.
  • Siempre te recordaremos. We will always remember you.
Etymology: Recordar comes from the Latin recordari, meaning "to remember." Interestingly, recordar is a cousin of the word corazón, meaning "heart," as the heart has been thought of as the center of memory and emotions.

False-friend alert: Except in poor translations from English, recordar is not used for meaning "to record." Verbs used for that purpose include anotar (to write down) and grabar (to make a sound or video recording).

Acordarse de: Also commonly used for "to remember" is the reflexive verb acordarse followed by the preposition de. As you might have guessed, acordarse is also a cousin of corazón. It also is conjugated following the same pattern as recordar.

  • Me acuerdo de la brisa que nos acariciaba. I remember the breeze that would caress us.
  • ¿Por qué a veces nos acordamos de lo que soñamos y otras veces no? Why do we sometimes remember what we dream and other times we don't?
  • La respuesta corta a la pregunta es no, no se acordaron de nosotros. The short answer to the question is no, they didn't remember us.
  • No quiero acordarme de ayer. I don't want to remember yesterday.

Rememorar: Spanish does have a cognate of "remember," rememorar, but it isn't used very often, and then usually to refer to an event being memorialized or recognized: Presidente Correa rememoró la masacre del 2 de agosto. President Correa remembered the Aug. 2 massacre.

Olvidar: Olvidar is the only verb in common use that means "to forget." It sometimes is used in the reflexive form, often in the phrase "olvidarse de," which can (but doesn't always) suggest deliberate forgetting. In some areas, olvidarse without the de is common.

  • Los Spurs olvidaron el estilo que los había distinguido. The Spurs forgot the style that had distinguished them.
  • ¡Ayúdame! Olvidé mi contraseña de Hotmail. Help! I forgot my Hotmail password.
  • No voy a olvidar nunca mi visita a Colombia. I am never going to forget my visit to Colombia.
  • Me olvidaré que fuiste mío y que ahora te perderé. I'll forget that you were mine and that now I will lose you.
  • ¿Por qué nos olvidamos de fechas importantes? Why do we forget important dates?
  • ¡No olvidemos lo nuestro! Let's not forget what's ours!

Often olvidarse can function like gustar, in that the thing forgotten becomes the subject of the verb, and the person(s) who forgot becomes the indirect object:

  • Es un video que no se te olvidará nunca. It's a video you'll never forget. (Literally, it's a video that will never be forgotten to you.)
  • Un día se me olvidaron las llaves del carro. One day I forgot the car keys.
  • Se me olvidó el coche en el autolavado y cerraba a las 6. I forgot the car in the car wash and it closed at 6.

Etymology: Olvidar comes from the Latin oblitus, "forgetful," making it a cousin of English words such as "oblivion" and "oblivious."

Sources: As is the case with most lessons on this site, sample sentences are adapted from a variety of sources written by native Spanish speakers. Among the sources used in this lesson are: Fotolog.com, Devocionalies Cristianos, Internetizado.com, Isaac Arriola, La Voz de Galicia, Soyunalbondiga.com, Mi Rincón del Alma, Taringa.net, Tenisweb, Terra.com, Ubuntu-es.org, 3wilio.
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