If I want to say "I forgot everything about it," I would go for "全部/全て忘れた". But then I thought what about "何でも忘れた"? I know that 何でも is followed by positive predicate. But somehow this sentence sounds strange to me. I am not sure if it could also be the right way to say so.

Thank you!


何でも generally means “any (one) thing”, not “everything”.

何でもいい → Anything is good.
何でも忘れる → He forgets anything (he gets told).
何でもできる → He can do anything.

全部できる → He can do everything (= all of the things).
全部できた → He was able to do everything.
全部忘れる → He will forget everything.
全部忘れた → He forgot everything.
全部いい → Everything is good.
全部よかった → Everything was good.

The reason 何でも忘れた is weird is for the same reason “He forgot anything” is weird in English: “anything” raises a potential but unspecified thing into the discourse, which doesn’t work well with the past-tense, because you should know what is being referred to. “Everything” raises all the things in the set being discussed, which goes fine with the past-tense.

This is not to say past-tense doesn’t ever work with “any”/何でも; in particular stative predicates work okay: 何でもよかったのに一つも選んでくれなかった “Anything would have been fine but he didn’t pick even one”. 何でもできたのに諦めて引きこもりになってしまった “He could have done anything but he gave up and became a hikikomori.”

This seems to be because the state somehow protects the scope of the quantifier, and doesn’t let it get affected by the past-tense 〜た. I feel like its usage is more common in counterfactuals (like the 〜のに sentences above) though it’s also possible outside of them: 私は(生まれてから)何でもできた. However this feels somehow very slightly odd so I’d recommend against it unless you know what you’re doing.

  • Of course, in English “He forgot anything (he was told)” works perfectly well in a narrative past: “John was a typically absent-minded professor-type who forgot anything you told him within thirty seconds”. Not sure if that works in Japanese. Sep 18 '19 at 22:39
  • Thank you so very much! Well-explained!
    – Cassandra
    Sep 19 '19 at 2:47
  • @CassandraDiaz Note that you can say 何でも忘れていた, implying there was some period in the past during which you kept forgetting a lot of things—perhaps because of some medical condition?
    – Will
    Sep 19 '19 at 2:48

I rarely say or hear 何でも忘れた as the meaning of "I forgot everything". I say 何もかも忘れた.

Darius Jahandarie explains 何でも well. 何でも忘れた makes sense as the meaning of "I forgot anything". However, it is usually used with a modifier such as 彼は、勉強したことは何でも忘れた、and I think どれも and どんなことでも are more common.

  • 2
    Even if rare, if you do hear it doesn't that mean it exists as a usable phrase? If your point is that it is not, please state that more clearly. Does the meaning get across but it is unnatural? Is it correct as standard Japanese but not used?
    – By137
    Sep 18 '19 at 14:46

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