Don't forget to take out the garbage again.


Senior Member
Dear all,

Wife: Please don't forget to take out the garbage again.
Husband: Okay.

I made up the dialogue. Could you tell me which word(s) do you think again modifies, forget or take out?
I would appreciate any comments.
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    With no context, this would be ambiguous.

    However, we have social context. We know that after someone has taken out the garbage, it is normally not possible to take it out again.

    Therefore, unless there is an unusual situation here (he took out the garbage but she cleaned out something else and created more garbage quickly) it would modify forget.


    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    It's ambiguous but, after much reflection, if I had to choose I'd say take out the garbage. If you change "don't forget" to "remember" it would be "remember to take the garbage out again":D


    Senior Member
    English - (Minnesota)
    Without further context, it's ambiguous. If the husband had forgotten to take out the garbage the previous day, he would likely understand it as "don't forget again."


    English - England
    From my experience (i) of wives, (ii) that the same garbage rarely makes its own way back into the house and thus needs taking out twice, it certainly means "Please don't again forget to take out the garbage [I say this as, upon [numerous] previous occasions, you have forgotten to take it out.]"


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I find it fascinating that the three males who posted all interpreted "again" as relating to "forget," while the female poster sees it as relating to "take out." Perhaps men are more sensitive to being reminded about not forgetting? :)

    In any case, I think we all agree that the sentence, absent context or other knowledge, is ambiguous. If it were "Please don't forget to sweep the porch again," where the porch has to be swept repeatedly because sand or dust blows onto it, it would be even more so.


    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The word placement for me makes it mean that the garbage was taken out once, then returned to the house only to be taken out again.

    So I agree with PaulQ on this.


    English - England
    The placement of again in the example is colloquial and the again is intended to qualify forget. I would not see it as the garbage being taken out twice or a second load of garbage to be removed.

    There will have been context before the example (and a man walking out with garbage after the example.) Esustat's post at #3 is the most likely understanding.

    However, for best marks in an exam, Wife: "Please don't forget again to take out the garbage." (#6).


    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't think there is any "real" problem with the placement other than that potentially created for people who can't keep track of the main verb of a sentence for the length of "to take out the garbage".
    Don't forget eggs again. :tick:
    Don't forget again eggs. :eek:
    Don't forget to buy eggs again. :tick:
    I don't agree with Paul Q in #5 or Packard in #7, *as to their reasoning,* though I agree the sentence is possibly ambiguous.

    As Egmont pointed out in post #6, many tasks have to be done again; there is no mysterious return necessary, as Packard suggests, subsequently, in post #7.

    If one normally takes out garbage, and does so, and there's a party later, then it may need to be taken out again; it's 'garbage' but not exactly the same items; as in Egmont's last example, for sweeping.


    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I read it as meaning "take out ... again." Just because it was taken out yesterday or the day before doesn't mean it doesn't need to be taken out again today.


    Without further context, I understand the sentence as "take...again". If I wanted "again" to modify "forget" then I would say "forget again"


    Senior Member
    English - US
    If I wanted "again" to modify "forget", I'd say it exactly as wanabee did, and I'd follow it with "You're always forgetting" or "You forgot yesterday." "Don't forget again to take out the garbage" sounds like robot talk.


    Senior Member
    American English
    In (my) real-world experience, the again would refer to forget -- it's a bit of chiding by the (female) speaker for having to repeat the same request time and again.

    If you simply wanted someone to take out the trash, you would say, "Don't forget to take out the trash" -- there's no real need to use "again" to point out the obvious fact that it's a repeating chore.
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