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fail

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verb fail pronunciation in British English /feɪl/ 
Word Forms
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present tense
I/you/we/theyfail
he/she/itfails
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

    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.

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of fail
  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. 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.

    1. b.
      if something such as a business or a relationship fails, it has a lot of problems and can no longer continue

      If interest rates go up, more small businesses will fail.

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

    At the last minute, her courage failed her.

    Synonyms and related words for this sense of fail

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