American English

Definition of fail verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they fail
    he / she / it fails
    past simple failed
    -ing form failing
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    not succeed
  1. 1[intransitive, transitive] to not be successful in achieving something Many diets fail because they are boring. a failing business fail in something I failed in my attempt to persuade her. fail to do something She failed to get into law school. The song can't fail to be a hit (= definitely will be a hit).
  2. not do something
  3. 2[intransitive] to not do something fail to do something He failed to keep the appointment. She never fails to e-mail every week. I fail to see (= I don't understand) why you won't even try it. fail in something He felt he would be failing in his duty if he did not report it.
  4. test/exam
  5. 3[transitive, intransitive] to not pass a test or an exam; to decide that someone or something has not passed a test or an exam fail (something) He failed his driving test. She was disqualified after failing a drug test. What will you do if you fail? fail somebody The professor failed several students last semester. opposite pass
  6. of machines/parts of body
  7. 4[intransitive] to stop working The brakes on my bike failed halfway down the hill.
  8. of health/sight
  9. 5[intransitive] (especially in the progressive tenses) to become weak Her eyesight is failing. His last months in office were marred by failing health.
  10. disappoint someone
  11. 6[transitive] fail somebody to disappoint someone; to be unable to help when needed When he lost his job, he felt he had failed his family. She tried to be brave, but her courage failed her. (figurative) Words fail me (= I cannot express how I feel).
  12. not be enough
  13. 7[intransitive] to not be enough when needed or expected The crops failed again last summer. The rains had failed and the rivers were dry.
  14. of company/business
  15. 8[intransitive] to be unable to continue Several banks failed during the recession.
  16. Idioms
    if all else fails
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    used to suggest something that someone can do if nothing else works If all else fails, you can always sell your motorcycle.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: fail