Learn and forget
Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.
Today, I’m only going to talk about two verbs, but they are good ones. I’m going to talk about the verbs learn and forget. These are very important verbs and can be used in lots of different ways so I’m going to look at some basic patterns for each verb and then specific phrases that you can use with these verbs.
Knowledge and skills
For me, there are two main aspects of learning: knowledge and skills. Lets’ start with knowledge. There are some words we use to talk about knowledge, like we can say you can learn a language and mean the vocabulary and the rules of grammar. I learnt French and German at school. I didn’t learn Spanish at school, but managed to learn a little when I was working in a summer school.
You can learn the rules of a game. Do you know the rules of cricket? I learnt the rules of cricket in a bar watching a cricket match on TV. I had to ask someone because I didn’t know what was going on and everyone else was really excited.
You can learn the way to somewhere, meaning the directions from one place to another. When you first move somewhere, you can learn your way around which means you know where the different places are. Whenever I move to a new place, I have to learn my way around so I know where I am and the way to the places I need to visit.
When there isn’t a special word for a set of knowledge, you can learn about something; you can learn about a topic. So at the moment, one of my boys is learning about the Romans at school.
The second aspect of learning is learning skills. I have to explain this to my kids all the time. They can learn facts and knowledge really quickly, but learning skills takes time. To talk about learning skills, we say learn how to do something or learn to do something. So I have been learning how to play the guitar for about 30 years. I learned how to juggle one Christmas when I was about 13 when my parents bought me some juggling balls. I am not very good at juggling, but I can juggle well enough to impress my boys. Well, I think they are impressed. Someone might ask you how did you learn to ride a horse so well? Or where did you learn how to drive?
As well as learn how to, you can say learn to and these two forms are almost the same. However, learn how to really emphasises the skill. Learn to do something is more about the experience. So I learned how to use a washing machine when I was about 15. This means I learned how a washing machine functions; which buttons to press, which dials to turn. I didn’t do much laundry, but I knew how the machine worked. If I say, I learned to use a washing machine when I was 15, it’s more like I realised that it was a good idea and gained the experience of using a washing machine. Here’s another example. When I worked in a restaurant, I learned to wash my hands after cutting up chillis. I was a sous-chef so I used to have to chop up ingredients. If you chop up a lot of chillis and then you touch your face or have to use the bathroom, you soon learn to wash your hands first.
Here are a couple of phrases with learn.
If you ever have to learn something by heart, that means you have to memorise it. This means you have to be able to recall it instantly. So good examples of things that people learn by heart are telephone numbers. Although this is not so common any more. Some people learn poems by heart. Actors need to learn their lines by heart. Muslims are encouraged to learn as much of the Quran as they can by heart.
You can use words of emotion before learn to say how you feel about some news. I was delighted to learn about your wedding. I was surprised to learn about your move. I was saddened to learn you lost your job. I was happy to learn about your new job.
OK. That’s learn knowledge, learn a language, learn the rules, learn about the Romans; learn a skill, learn how to do something, learn from experience, learn to do something and learn by heart and happy to learn. It’s time to move on to forget.
Forget is almost the opposite of learn. You can forget knowledge and also forget skills, though that’s much less common. Normally, the opposite of forget is remember. The form we use here is forget to do. I use the word forget most often when I have a meeting or an appointment or some job that I’m supposed to do, something that I’m supposed to remember to do and then I don’t do it. I forgot to call the bank. I forgot to go to the shops. I forgot to call into the meeting.
We do use forget with knowledge a bit like the opposite of learn. Instead of using it with words for sets of knowledge, we usually forget specific pieces of information. I feel bad about this, but I forget people’s names all the time. I forget facts and dates. I have a real problem with some birthdays. I don’t know why I forget some birthdays.
Like learn, you can forget about something which means you forget different ideas and facts about a topic. It’s usually used to talk about memories or events. I forgot about going to my friend’s party. You can make this stronger by saying forget all about. I forgot all about making plans to go to the cinema.
Forget how to …
As I said, you can use forget about skills. To talk about this, you use the same form as learn. You can say I forgot how to juggle. Or I forgot how to get to work. This is the same as I forgot my way to work. We use the adverbs completely and totally with forget, even though they don’t add a lot of meaning. You might say: I’m really sorry but I’ve totally forgotten your name. Or I completely forgot to buy a card.
Phrases with forget
Here are a couple of phrases that use the word forget. This first, we use to emphasise how important something is to us. I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the day that we met. Another phrase is it’s easy to forget. We use this in formal situations to remind people about something or to say that we think that something is more important than people think. It’s easy to forget what’s important in life. In this case, I don’t think it really means forget, rather it means to be distracted and not to think about something much.
The last phrase I’m going to talk about is keep forgetting. I keep forgetting where I’ve put my keys. This means to continue to forget to do something or to forget again and again. I am supposed to put the car keys in a little tray by the door so that my wife doesn’t have to ask me where they are. And .. I’ve just checked and the keys are in my pocket. I keep forgetting to put them there.
So that’s forget to do something, forget about something or forget all about something, forget how to do something, completely and totally forget, never forget and keep forgetting.
I hope that you learn these uses and don’t completely forget them too quickly. To help you remember them, there is a practice activity on the Learn English Vocabulary website for this podcast where you’ll also find the transcript and some discussion questions to give you the chance to try to use some of these phrases as that will help you remember.
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Thanks for listening.
- I’ll add some tasks tomorrow 🙂