Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

English vocab recall versus remember

What is the earliest memory that you can recall?

What do you remember from your childhood?

Today our listener Andreas asked us a good question about some small differences between the words “recall” and “remember.”

Here is today’s question:

Hey Lindsey, hey Michelle,

I really enjoy listening to your podcast!

Since you like specific questions – here are two:

What is actually the difference between recall and remember? I’m sure you’ll be able to give some clarifying examples as you always do.

Thank you very much! Keep on going!

Best regards from Germany,



First! Avoid these common mistakes:

  • “Remember” and “remind” are not the same. Check out Episode 360 to find out the differences between the two words.

What is the difference?

  • Remember- You are actively grabbing the memory in your head.
  • Remind- You are telling someone else to remember to do something.


  • False friend alert! In Spanish “recordar” is remember but in English you can’t just say “record” when you mean “remember” because that is something you do by writing something down, taking notes or hitting “record” on an audio recorder.
    • “We are recording this episode using Audacity.”
    • “I record my thoughts every night in a journal.”


So watch out for those two pitfalls, don’t fall into the traps that most students fall into!


Recall versus Remember:

They mean the same basic thing but there are a few small differences. 

  • Recall: This is used more in legal or professinal spaces like in a courtroom when the prosecutor asks the defendant, “Do you recall the time you left your home on Wed May 3rd 2017?”


  • Famous in American culture and history:  The phrase “I don’t recall” was made famous in the Iran Contra affair. You can read more about it here.  Because of this famous legal situation, this quote “I don’t recall” became household famous and meant, “I am avoiding the question.”


  • Remember:
    • This means to think of something again. Example: “I remember the 90’s so vividly.”
    • To retain something in your memory. Example: “Remember that you have an appointment next week.”
    • To have something come to your mind again. Example: “I just remembered that he’s coming to visit tonight.”


One major difference:

You can substitute “not to forget” with “remember”, but not with “recall”. Example: you’re going to the bank and your husband tells you to “Please, don’t forget to pick up a new book of checks” (Please, remember to pick up checks.”). You don’t use “recall” for this.


So to summarize:

  • Recall- This is used in more formal areas like a legal case or in journalism
  • Often these words mean the same thing
  • Sometimes you cannot interchange the two like when you say “ don’t forget.”


Other fun vocab words related to memories:


  • To reminisce- To go through old memories verbally, using videos, scrapbooks, looking at photos, telling stories


A: When you see your friends from college, what do you reminisce about?

B: Oh just the easy lifestyle- late night pizza, parties, spring break, ya know, the typical stuff.


  • To look back: To remember- more casual


A: When you look back on your years in NYC, what are you most proud of?

B: Probably the fact that I took full advantage of the city and really immersed myself.



  • To treasure: To hold in great importance when you recall something.


  • A: Michelle what is your most treasured memory from your chilhood?
  • B: For me it’s skiiing with my parents on Sundays.



What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.


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