"forgot to close the window" vs "forgot closing the window"


Is there a difference between "he forgot to close the window" and "he forgot closing the window"? I saw a grammar website that teaches the difference is that "forgot to close the window" means the person really forgot to close the window (window is open). And, "forgot closing the window" means the person forgot that he already closed the window (window is closed).

The website also provides another example, "stops to smoke" and "stops smoking." "Stops to smoke" means a person is doing something, and he stops what he is doing in order to smoke. "Stops smoking" means a person is smoking and he stops the action of smoking.

I somehow find both "stops to smoke" and "forgot closing" kind of odd. I'd say "I forgot that I closed the window" instead. Are the website and I both correct? Here is the link to the website: (It's a Chinese website.)
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    I agree with that grammar website, kclub. If you tell me that "He forgot closing the window", I'll understand it to mean "He forgot that he closed the window." If you tell me that "He forgot to close the window", I'll understand it to mean "He forgot to close the window."

    I also agree with what that website had to say about "stops to smoke" and "stops smoking". If you find "forgot closing the window" and "stops to smoke" odd, you can always avoid them. Don't be too perplexed, however, if you hear a fluent English-speaker use one of those expressions. Both expressions are normal.


    Senior Member
    "Stops to smoke" is not odd to me. "The man walks down the street in the late summer sun. He stops to smoke under a shady tree." That sounds normal to me.

    "He forgot closing the window" does indeed mean "he forgot that he closed the window". It's a type of shortcut, in a way. "He forgot (the act of) closing the window." What you said -- "I forgot that I closed the window" -- is also fine.

    "He forgot to X" means that whatever X is, he forgot it.

    There is also an interesting difference between "He remembered closing the window" and "He remembered to close the window". In both cases he closed the window but the first one says that he recalls that he closed the window after the fact while the second means that remembered that he had to close the window before he closed it.

    I can see that they don't seem consistent and I can't offer any good explanation. :) I have no insight but it is the way it works.


    Senior Member
    British English / Danish
    'he forgot to close the window' (the window is open) past simple --> infinitive

    'he forgot (that) he had closed' the window (the window is closed) past simple --> past perfect (he closed the window before he forgot about closing it)
    I think you will also hear 'he forgot (that) he closed the window' (past simple x2).
    To me, 'he forgot closing the window' (out of context) does NOT mean that he closed it, but forgot doing so.

    'he's a heavy smoker, he stops his work several times a day to smoke, but as soon as his boss appears, he stops smoking (he puts out his cigarette)' (stops the activity)

    'many people stop smoking, when they realise how damaging it is for the health' (stop= give up, quit)


    Thanks for the answers! It was really confusing to me, but now I have more idea of how it works!


    Senior Member
    USA English
    "He forgot to close the window" means that he forgot he was going to close the window, so presumably he did not close it.

    "He forgot closing the window" means he forgot something called "closing the window", which could be someone else's closing the window or his own and could be closing the window at the time he forgot, before that, or after that, or even closing the window in general at any time. If we take "closing the window" as referring to his closing the window in his future, the two sentences mean the same thing.

    Neither sentence gives us the window's current status (open or closed).


    Senior Member
    I sure wouldn't think that somebody else closed the window if you told me "He forgot closing the window." If you wanted me to understand that he forgot that somebody else closed the window, I'd need to hear a different sentence.
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