How to Talk about Forgetting

How to Talk about Forgetting

Imagine that someone asks you a simple question but you can’t answer it, even though you know you’ve answered it before. Or you suddenly forget what you were talking about and need your listeners’ help to remember. We’ve all been there. But now let’s look at the vocabulary for such awkward situations. On the list below you will find useful expressions which will help you next time you forget something or make a stupid mistake. Don’t worry, nothing is the end of the world. With this vocabulary you’ll be able explain what has happened.

  1. To have a brain glitch – to temporarily space out and make a mistake: I can answer very difficult questions, but sometimes I have a brain glitch and can’t answer even the simplest ones.
  2. To space out – to become inattentive, distracted, or mentally remote: Never space out during Professor Smith’s lectures, he sees everything!
  3. A lapse of concentration – a temporary lack of concentration, which can often cause you to make a mistake: I had a little lapse of concentration in the middle of the test. I’m afraid I made a mistake because of that.
  4. Brain fart – a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly: I’m having a brain fart and can’t spell his name correctly.
  5. Mental hiccup = brain fart: I was trying to explain my work but could’t because I had a mental hiccup.
  6. Mental block – an inability to recall something or to perform a mental action: I must have formed a mental block on the exact details.
  7. Brain cramp – a moment in which one fails to think clearly or act sensibly: Sorry boss, I just had a little brain cramp there. What were you saying again?
  8. Thinko – a mistake in one’s thought processes; a mental lapse or failure to reason correctly: When he mixed up the names of his two close friends, it was a thinko.
  9. To blank (out) – to unexpectedly be unable to remember something: 1. I feel so stupid now! I totally blanked out when it came to the questions about safety regulations. 2. I blank on certain words.
  10. My mind goes blank = I am suddenly unable to think of anything appropriate to say: He asked me about my past and my mind went blank.
  11. Senior moment (humorous) – a lapse of memory common in elderly people: He is 91 in January and sometimes has a senior moment, when the flow of words dries up.
  12. To have a blonde moment (humorous) – to forget something or do something silly, in a way that is sometimes thought to be typical of women with blonde hair: We all have our blonde moments. (Note that some people may find this expression offensive.)
  13. To lose one’s train of thought – to forget what one was talking or thinking about: Excuse me, I lost my train of thought. What was I talking about?
  14. My train of thought jumped the tracks – I lost my train of thought: My train of thought jumped the tracks when he asked me that unexpected question.
  15. To escape – if something escapes you, you can’t remember it: 1. His name escapes me right now. 2. Do you remember his name? – It seems to have escaped me.
  16. To elude (formal) = to escape: I know who you mean but her name eludes me.
  17. It goes in one ear and out the other = I quickly forget it: If I have to listen to something I don’t understand, it just goes in one ear and out the other.
  18. I have a memory/mind like a sieve = I forget things very easily: Sorry, my memory is like a sieve. I don’t remember this at all!
  19. It slipped my memory/mind = I forgot about it: I forgot I’d arranged to meet Richard last night – it completely slipped my mind.
  20. It’s on the tip of my tongue = I can almost remember it: Oh, what was his name? It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t remember.
  21. Blursomething that you cannot remember: It all happened so long ago that it’s just a blur to me now.

Note that almost all the expressions above are informal. If you are not sure which ones are and which ones are not, please ask your questions int he comments below.

If it’s typical of you to forget things, you can say that you are forgetful (apt or likely not to remember) or absent-minded (likely to forget things).

Do you have a mind like a sieve? Would you like to improve your memory? Read the text below and take a few tips:

Forgetting something can be a completely normal occurrence, but losing your train of thought, spacing out and blanking all the time can be frustrating.  Fortunately, everyone can improve their memory naturally. Start with your diet and lifestyle. Cut back on sugar to help your memory and overall health, as research has shown that eating too much added sugar causes cognitive decline. Make time for meditation because it may increase grey matter in the brain and improve your memory. Practice mindfulness, as it has  been linked with a lower risk of age-related cognitive decline and an overall improvement in psychological well-being. Train your brain with crosswords and puzzles because challenging your brain strengthens your memory. (For more tips, visit

  • Occurrence – an incident or event
  • To cut back on something – to use less of something
  • Overall health – a person’s health in general
  • Added sugar – sugar carbohydrates added to food and beverages during their production
  • Cognitive decline (formal) – the fact that the brain starts working not as well as it used to
  • To make time for something – to find time to do something in spite of being busy
  • Grey matter (medical) – the grey-brown substance in your brain and spinal cord
  • Mindfulness – a technique to improve mental wellbeing that involves focusing on the present moment while accepting any thoughts and feelings that occur
  • To be linked with something – to be related to something

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