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Okay, so I didn't really forget how to say it... I just wanted a clever question title.

In my Spanish class I was taught that olvidarse is reflexive:

Me olvidé (de la cita).
Me olvidé (las llaves).

Google translate agrees with this translation.

Tonight, a friend of mine (a native Mexican Spanish speaker) told me that sounded awkward, and suggested simply:

Olvidé (de la cita).
Olvidé (las llaves).

But also suggested that a more correct way of saying I forgot is:

Se me olvidó (de la cita).
Se me olvidaron (las llaves).

Along with the similar forms:

Se me han olvidado... → I have forgotten...
No se te olvide... → (You) Don't forget...

Are all of these forms considered "correct"? Is there a preferred form for "I forgot" or "I have forgotten"?

Please note that my question is about the verb form to use (reflexive, versus non-reflexive, versus passive). I hope the rest of my sample questions are correct, but if they are not, please edit them to be grammatically correct.

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5  
+1 for the question title. :) –  Alenanno Dec 9 '11 at 10:21

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

W...wait.

Olvidar works like forget in English. The one doing the forgetting is the subject and the forgotten thing is the object.

Yo olvidé mi cita. Yo olvidé mis llaves

So the verb must match in form the one doing the forgetting.

However, you are also seeing examples of passive construction with "se".

Se me olvidó la cita. Se me olvidaron las llaves

You can use "se" to construct passive sentences. These are roughly equivalent (but better sounding) to:

La cita fue olvidada por mi. Las llaves fueron olvidadas por mi.

Note that the conjugation matches in person/number the one in "se me..."; the number is that of the thing being forgotten.

A further example of "se" passive construction:

He gastado todas las balas -> Se me han gastado todas las balas

Which one should you use? Well, I think it's a matter of emphasis. Changing to a passive form emphasizes more the object. Full on passive forms are often clumsier, wordier and less natural (compare "la cita fue olvidada por mi" to "se me olvidó la cita"), and thus the "se" form often sounds better.

So for instance, let's say you want to say "you forgot to bring the wine":

  • If I wanted to blame you, I could say something like "Tú olvidaste traer el vino"
  • But if you brought lots of stuff, I might say "Se te olvidó el vino" instead.

You can also use repetition for emphasis, though: "Se te olvidó el vino a ti".

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So is the reflexive form simply incorrect? Or just less common? Or does it have some alternate meaning? –  Flimzy Dec 9 '11 at 10:41
    
You mean as "me olvidaron las llaves"? That is correct, but it means "they forgot my keys", which is something which you won't say often, I guess –  alex Dec 9 '11 at 10:52
    
You're right... that doesn't make sense. I meant: Me olvidé las llaves... question updated. –  Flimzy Dec 9 '11 at 10:57
    
Yeah, worth adding that another way the Se me olvidó la cita. construction has been explained to me is as emphasizing the accidental nature of the act. Like @alex says, using the active form of the verb implies fault. Switching to the passive voice states that the thing was forgotten but passes it off as more of an accident than it assesses blame. –  Kevin K. Dec 9 '11 at 11:17
    
And how about "me olvidé DE la cita"? It is also correct. buscon.rae.es/dpdI/SrvltConsulta?lema=olvidar –  Javi Dec 9 '11 at 13:06

I'd like to point out that Olvidé la cita without context leads to confusion:

Olvidé la cita: ¿Cuál cita? La cita bíblica.

Whereas Me olvidé DE la cita makes obvious that one is referring to an appointment.

Perhaps one trick is to ask yourself a question and see how would you answer it. For example:

¿DE qué te olvidaste? (Without the De the question wouldn't make sense) -> Me olvidé DE la cita con el doctor.

If the question needs the DE, then I use DE on the answer.

But I would not agree that Me olvidé la cita is correct, as OP was told.

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Thank you. Although my question is really about the verb forms, it's good to know that I made a mistake by omitting the de. I have updated my question to include this, since the real question is about which verb form is correct. –  Flimzy Dec 9 '11 at 21:14

Both olvidar and olvidarse are correct. I think the best examples are in the DPD.

From the DPD:

olvidar(se).

‘Dejar de tener en la memoria algo o a alguien’, ‘dejar de tener afecto a alguien o algo’ y ‘no tener en cuenta algo o a alguien’. En el español general culto este verbo admite distintas construcciones:

  • Como transitivo, con sujeto de persona y un complemento directo que expresa lo olvidado (olvidar [algo o a alguien]): «Matamoros Moreno había olvidado al asistente. ¿Lo había olvidado?» (...)

  • Como intransitivo pronominal, con sujeto de persona y un complemento introducido por de, que expresa lo olvidado (olvidarse de algo o alguien): «Creía que ya me había olvidado de aquella mujer»; «No se olvide de pedirle un aumento a su señor padre» (...)

  • Es también correcta la construcción intransitiva pronominal olvidársele algo a alguien, en la que el sujeto es lo olvidado y la persona que olvida se expresa mediante un complemento indirecto: «Se le olvidaron [a mi madre] sus otros hijos» (...)

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Flimzy, your first example gets the piont across just fine brother. However that form fails to take possession for the action as yours. Just means some of that general tenet of Mejicanisimo may really be rubbing off on you after all. would take possession as well as indicate it is already too late to do anything about it. We Mexicans have a habit of shortening our answer to the point of making it of no fault of our own, it just happened. Example;se callo· means....It fell.... Saying means past tense in he finite sense so as not to be able to change it. takes personal possession of the action. To make it in the proper and resolute at the same time, you would say which means 'I have already forgotton about it. And now you have the both proper complete statement with a finite past tense designation included in the statement while giving the other person the option to accept or respond as they may feel without creating an actual offensive sounding situation, (since you have taken possession of the action, they must then decide how they feel and want to handle it from there). Roman Littlestork

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4  
Actually, se calló (with an accent mark) means "he/she shut up"; se cayó means "he/she/it fell". –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 14 '11 at 3:34

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