+0
Hi,
is there a difference between "I can't remember..." and "I don't remember..."? I don't think there's much difference. I think it's the same as between "I can't believe..." and "I don't believe", or "I don't see..." and "I can't see".
I think that "can't" just put more emphasis, but the meanings are basically the same. They are interchangeable in most contexts, even though I'm sure there are some contexts where one is way better than the other. An example could be: "I told you to sell my car? I don't remember telling you so!" <--- can't would not sound very good

Having said that, that's what I think, but since I'm not sure, as always, here I am! Looking for advice. Thank you in advance Emotion: smile
Comments  
I agree with you, but i think that can't is use for things that you can't remember in any way by yourself, like you need to lern it again... i'm clear?

In español: No lo PUEDO recordar. (with can't)
No lo recuerdo. (with don't)

Greetings!
Hi Kooyeen

To me, can't remember basically takes don't remember a step further. Can't remember means that you have tried but failed to remember that which you don't remember. Emotion: wink
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
YankeeTo me, can't remember basically takes don't remember a step further. Can't remember means that you have tried but failed to remember that which you don't remember. Emotion: wink

Hi, thanks.
Yes, I said that it seems "can't" is more emphatic. But you said... Can't remember means that you have tried but failed to remember that which you don't remember.

Really? I don't think it's necessarily that way. I mean, look at this example:
- Yes I know Martha. Her name is Martha... hmmm... well, I don't remember her last name, but I know she lives on Hottie street.
- Yes I know Martha. Her name is Martha... hmmm... well, I can't remember her last name, but I know she lives on Hottie street.

Can't
is definitely more emphatic, but the two sentences are practically the same in meaning and and both idiomatic, aren't they?
Does what I think make any sense? Thank you again Emotion: smile
Hi Kooyeen

Depending on the context, using can't could be a bit more polite or diplomatic. In other words, it may sometimes be more diplomatic to indicate that you've tried to accommodate the other person in that you've made an attempt to remember/believe something (but unfortunately have failed). In that sense, it would be somewhat less direct, and potentially less harsh (and therefore less emphatic?).
There is a whole set of verbs, mostly verbs of perception, but also including understand and remember, which take can / can't where they add little, if anything to the meaning -- in contrast to most other languages of the world, which do not say (their equivalent of) can / can't in those contexts.

Palmer (The English Verb) says that in sentences like

I can smell something burning.
I can see the moon.


there is little sense of ability; that is, can cannot be replaced by am able to. These simply indicate that I do, in fact, smell or see whatever it is.

Here's an example he gives where the true 'ability' meaning of can is shown.

He has marvellous eyes -- he can see the tiniest detail. [or is able to see ...]

Other examples from Palmer:

I can't remember a thing.
I can't understand what he is saying.


Palmer speculates that the use of don't for can't would have no significant effect on the meaning -- possibly none at all.

CJ
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
YankeeDepending on the context, using can't could be a bit more polite or diplomatic. In other words, it may sometimes be more diplomatic to indicate that you've tried to accommodate the other person in that you've made an attempt to remember/believe something (but unfortunately have failed). In that sense, it would be somewhat less direct, and potentially less harsh (and therefore less emphatic?).
Hi Amy, you are not going to believe this but... I understand that! I feel that slight difference too. It's a good sign...
So it looks like I don't need to worry. I was afraid there was a bigger difference between those forms. Jim said: "Palmer speculates that the use of don't for can't would have no significant effect on the meaning -- possibly none at all," so after reading all your comments, I think I'm already using them in an acceptable way.
Thank you all, guys. Emotion: smile
When I hear people say "I don't remember doing it", it seems they are trying to say "I don't know if it has ever happened because I have no memory of it happening."

For example: "I don't remember signing up for this mailing list, so I don't know why I'm getting these e-mails."

And this is the meaning I get when I hear politicians answer accusations with I don't remember or I don't recall.

In the other, a more common, case when the speakers admit or assume that something has happened or exists but they just forget what happened or what it was, they tend to use can't rather than don't, like "I can't remember where I put my keys."

If these observations are correct, they may explain why the collocation can't remember appears a lot more often than don't remember in concordances.

Are my observations correct?