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fail - definition and synonyms


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verb fail pronunciation in British English /feɪl/
Word Forms
present tense
present participlefailing
past tensefailed
past participlefailed
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  1. 1
    [intransitive] to be unsuccessful when you try to do something
    Most people who try to lose weight fail dismally.
    fail to do something: They have failed to come up with any practical solutions.
    fail in: He failed in his attempt to get compensation.
    1. a.
      used about actions or plans
      Attempts to revive him failed.
      It looks as if the negotiations are going to fail.
  2. 2
    [intransitive] to not do something that people expect you to do
    He failed to come home at the usual time.
    fail in your duty/obligation: The government is failing in its duty to protect people.
    1. a.
      [transitive] if someone fails you, they do not do what they promised or what you trusted them to do
      He felt he had failed his team-mates.
      The political system has failed us.
  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to be unsuccessful in achieving a satisfactory level or standard
    The new plane failed a safety test.
    She failed all her exams.
    fail on: I failed on the written part of my driving test.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to decide that someone or something has not achieved a satisfactory score or standard
      Examiners failed nearly 30% of the candidates.
  4. 5
    [transitive] mainly literary if a quality or ability fails you, you suddenly lose it
    At the last minute, her courage failed her.


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