It’s Normal to Forget English Phrases, Expressions and Collocations!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Is it normal to forget English phraseology

Here’s how to improve your spoken English when reading this article: read it out loud, then read out loud the collocations highlighted in red 10 times each to memorize them, then look away from the monitor and try and say 3 sample sentences for each of those collocations! For best results record your speech so that you can go back, spot any mistakes you might have made, and then do some more spoken English practice by correcting yourself!

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Has it ever crossed your mind that there’s certain English phrases you’ve stopped using?

Here’s what made me realize it – when I check back my older blog articles and videos, I come across certain means of expression I don’t really use these days!

For instance, when I watch my videos recorded back in 2011, I notice that back then I was using the phrasal verb COME ALONG quite often, and come to think of it, these days I don’t really use it anymore!

Here’s another example – when I was updating my Fluency Star website, I read a sentence I’d written a couple of years ago: “… students OUGHT TO be punished…” and it immediately made me remember the TV show Mythbusters where Jamie was using this English auxiliary verb quite often, and I’d picked up that habit from him.

Nowadays I don’t really watch Mythbusters anymore, and as a consequence I’ve actually stopped using OUGHT TO in my own English writing and conversations!

Now, quite naturally it might beg the question – is this a worrying trend?

Should I be concerned that I don’t use certain English means of expression anymore?

Is that indicative of worsening English skills?

Or maybe it means I have some sort of a memory problem and I should get checked out for an early-onset Alzheimer’s? 😉

Well, it’s not all that bad, my friends! I’m not developing dementia any time soon, and neither are you – forgetting certain English means of expression is totally normal, so please read this article to find out why it happens!

You Actually Don’t Forget Anything – It Simply Becomes Part of Your Passive Vocab!

The simple fact of the matter is that the vocabulary and phraseology you use in your daily life isn’t a constantly growing entity.

What happens in reality is – some of that stuff has to be put away to give way to newer, more relevant English phraseology!

And please pay particular attention to what I said in the first sentence in this paragraph: “Phraseology you USE!” So basically what I’m saying is that some of your ACTIVE vocabulary becomes your PASSIVE vocabulary when you’ve stopped using it for a while.

So in case you thought I’m saying that over time you simply tend to forget certain English expressions completely, it’s not what I meant.

Part of your active English phraseology becomes PASSIVE due to the fact that you start using newer expressions, but you don’t really forget anything.

Let’s say, for example, you used the expression “to be at odds with” for a while and then for some reason or another you just stopped using it. Now, as you can imagine, chances of you forgetting what it means completely are very slim!

Even if you didn’t come across this expression for years, you’d still know what it means, it would just become part of your passive vocabulary.

And in case you have to do some reading up on the differences between your active and passive vocab – you can read more about it HERE!

Your Current Active Phraseology is Heavily Influenced by Your Activities!

It’s only expected that a person changes their interests over time and starts watching different TV shows, finds new friends and develops taste for something new in terms of what they read.

And all that outside influence is inevitably going to leave its mark on your speech or writing style, it’s just common sense!

Just like I told you in the beginning of this article, a few years ago I would use the auxiliary verb OUGHT TO just because I was influenced by Jamie form Mythbusters.

Want more examples? Here you go! There was a time when I was watching Tony Robbins’s videos on YouTube and here’s an expression I remember him using all the time – “to follow through with” – and guess what? I started using it as well? But now that I haven’t been watching his videos for a couple of years, I’ve also stopped using that phrase.

Another one – when I was reading the GONE series, I learned a good few American phrases that I actually started using in real life, and “to fall out of use” was one of them. Fast forward to these days – and I don’t really use this phrase anymore! There’s many of them that I still use, of course – such as the grammar construct “try and + VERB” and others – but this particular one has fallen out of use (did you see how I actually used the very phrase to refer to the fact that I’ve stopped using it?).

So as you can clearly see, your active phraseology is heavily influenced by the books you read, TV programs you watch and people you hang out with.

Does It Mean The Moment I Stop Hearing That Phrase I’ll Stop Using It?

No, it doesn’t work like that, it’s only a few phrases here and there that you’ll stop using for some reason or another.

My last college teacher, for example, used the following phrase all the time – “whatever the case may be” – and despite the fact I don’t attend his class anymore, I still use this English expression.

Another example – my last boss would often say “dirt before the brush” when letting me go through the door first. It’s a joke – basically he calls me the dirt and he’s the brush, and again – I haven’t stopped using it myself (I’d often say it to my college buddies) even though I stopped working in that company a long time ago.

And if you think about it, it only makes sense that you will retain most of the active vocabulary you’ve build over the years – or else it would be very difficult for us to say anything if we would forget all phrases the moment we stop hearing them on a very regular basis.

So luckily enough, the vast majority of the phraseology you’ve acquired over the years will remain in your active vocabulary – provided, of course, that you keep speaking or writing in English on a regular basis. If you stop doing that for a very long period of time, your active phraseology will shrink beyond the shadow of a doubt!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • And let’s not forget it’s very beneficial to record your speech when practicing , and if you do that it would be less likely to be seen as something weird – people these days record videos of themselves, take selfies and do all that kind of stuff all the time and it’s not being perceived as anything weird by the majority of people.

  • Hi Baran,
    That’s a funny story indeed, and I hope it hasn’t changed the way your father sees you! 😉 Just joking obviously, I’m sure he doesn’t think any different about you, but as far as my own experiences – well, I can’t say I’ve had anything similar happen to me. I have been overheard speaking with myself when walking outside however, but I try not to care about it because they’re just strangers anyway and who cares what they think of me! 😉
    Keep up the spoken English self-practice!

  • Indrajit Kar

    True… 😉 Everytime I do self practice my parents would call me crazy and give me looks as if I am a lunatic… Because people talking to themselves loudly isn’t something that they are used to seeing I guess… Anyway we don’t have to get bothered by what others think and keep up on the practice…

  • baran

    hello Robby. even though i think this would be irrelevant. but i want to tell an awkward and funny thing that happened to me today. actually today I was doing spoken English self practice as you recommended. while doing that i usually play a music in the background. and i go in front of a mirror. and i try to move my head and arms to seem super confident. as i was doing al these stuffs my father snuck up on me. and i had no idea that he was behind me. and i kept doing that. and then i turned back my father muttered oh my gosh my son is just being crazy. actually that was very awkward and funny thing. has this ever happened to you?
    anyway i hope this could make a smile on your kind face dear Robby.