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Improve Your English / Poboljsaj Znanje Engleskog
(in cooperation with BBC UK, Learning English - Learn it Program and Roger Woodham)

This week's question is :
Could you possibly explain the differences between remember, remind, recall and recollect?

... and the answer is :

Remind and remember are not the same. If you remind somebody about something, you make them remember it. Thus, remind is a transitive verb, i.e. it always has an object which may be followed by to + infinitive or a that-clause. Compare the following:

Remind me to send Denny an email about the change of dates.
I reminded them that the dress rehearsal had been brought forward to Wednesday.
I shouldn't need to remind you to wash your hands before you sit down to eat.

When you say that somebody or something reminds you of something, you associate it with a memory from your past:

She reminds me of The Princess Royal.
They are so alike in looks and appearance.
Doesn't this countryside remind you of Cornwall? It does me.
I think I know which one it is, but remind me of your house number.


If you remember something, you recall people or events to your mind. Remember can be used transitively with an object or intransitively without an object. It is often used with to + infinitive and with when- where- or that-clauses. Compare the following:

Do you remember the first time we sat under the stars, listening to Beethoven's Ninth?
Do you remember when we first ate wild mushrooms? ~ Yes, I remember.
I can't remember where I've put the spare set of car keys. Have you seen them?
Will you remember to collect your suit from the dry-cleaners or shall I do it?
She remembered that she was going clubbing that evening and cheered up.

remember + infinitive or remember + verb-ing?

A lot of readers ask about verbs that are followed by verb-ing forms or to + infinitive. Some, like want, decide, agree, are always followed by to + infinitive. Some, like look forward to, enjoy, finish, are always followed by verb-ing forms.

I decided to turn off the computer and go home. I would finish writing the report tomorrow.

Some verbs can be followed by either verb-ing forms or to + infinitive, sometimes with some difference in meaning. Remember and forget are two such verbs. Remember and forget with an infinitive always refer forward in time. Remember and forget + verb-ing forms always refer back in time. Compare the following:

I don't remember talking to you about Terry's divorce. I don't even remember you asking me about that.
I shall always remember flying to America on Concorde.
Remember to close all the windows and lock all the doors before you leave the house.
I forgot to warn him about the dangerous dog and he was bitten.
I shall never forget sharing a bottle of iced water with you beside the Pyramids in Egypt.


When you recall something, you remember it and tell others about it:

The Prime Minister recalled his visits to France and the six meetings he had had with the French President.

We often say: as far as I can recall or as I recall or I seem to recall to refer back to something that you have been talking about:

I seem to recall that you were against the idea of Henry joining the Board of Directors.

As far as I can recall, you were warned three times that you would lose your job if you persisted in being late. I distinctly recall warning you about this.

If a company recalls a product, it asks for it to be returned because it has found to be defective:

The pharmaceutical company is going to recall one of its drugs because of possibly dangerous side effects.

If a player is recalled to a team, s/he is included in the team again after being left out:

Many people in Ireland still hope that Roy Keane might be recalled to the Irish squad in time for the World Cup. recollect

If you recollect something, you remember it and usually talk about it. There is little difference between recollect and recall in this context. We could also use remember here as the most common of the three verbs, although remember would not imply that the experience was talked about.

She recollected / recalled that she had been living in Paris when Picasso and Matisse were both working there.

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