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verb fail pronunciation in American English /feɪl/
Word Forms
present tense
present participlefailing
past tensefailed
past participlefailed
  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
    fail to do something:

    She failed to give any explanation for her actions.

    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 teammates.

      The political system has failed us.

  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to be unsuccessful in achieving a satisfactory level or standard

    The new airplane failed a safety test.

    She failed all her tests.

    fail on:

    I failed on the written part of my driver’s test.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] if something such as a machine or an organ in your body fails, it no longer works correctly

    The brakes failed and the van crashed into a tree.

  5. 5
    [transitive] mainly literary if a quality or ability fails you, you suddenly lose it

    At the last minute, her courage failed her.


… a teaching method in which groups of children learn independently using a computer linked to the internet

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a derogatory word used for referring to people in the banking and investment industry who are thought of as taking serious risks in order to increase their own earnings …

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