Definition of fail verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//feɪl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//feɪl//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they fail
    BrE BrE//feɪl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//feɪl//
    he / she / it fails
    BrE BrE//feɪlz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//feɪlz//
    past simple failed
    BrE BrE//feɪld//
    ; NAmE NAmE//feɪld//
    past participle failed
    BrE BrE//feɪld//
    ; NAmE NAmE//feɪld//
    -ing form failing
    BrE BrE//ˈfeɪlɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈfeɪlɪŋ//
    Exams and assessment, Disappointment
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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 school fail in something I failed in my attempt to persuade her. fail to do something She failed to get into art college. 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 email every week. I fail to see (= I don't understand) why you won't even give it a try. fail in something He felt he would be failing in his duty if he did not report it. More Like This Verbs usually followed by infinitives afford, agree, appear, arrange, attempt, beg, choose, consent, decide, expect, fail, happen, hesitate, hope, intend, learn, manage, mean, neglect, offer, prepare, pretend, promise, refuse, swear, try, want, wishSee worksheet.
  4. test/exam
  5. 3  [transitive, intransitive] to not pass a test or an exam; to decide that somebody/something has not passed a test or an exam fail (something) He failed his driving test. She was disqualified after failing a drugs test. What will you do if you fail? fail somebody The examiners failed over half the candidates. opposite pass See related entries: Exams and assessment
  6. of machines/parts of body
  7. 4[intransitive] to stop working The brakes on my bike failed half way 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 somebody
  11. 6[transitive] fail somebody to disappoint somebody; 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). See related entries: Disappointment
  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. Word OriginMiddle English: from Old French faillir (verb), faille (noun), based on Latin fallere ‘deceive’.Extra examples I tried to cheer her up, but failed miserably. Others have tried and failed. She came up with several plans that failed spectacularly before finally achieving success. That joke never fails. The authorities have totally failed to address this problem. The show didn’t just fail, it failed spectacularly. The song can’t fail to be a hit. an enterprise that was doomed to fail from the start A high percentage of businesses fail because of the collapse of a major customer. Businesses fail because they can’t pay their bills. I fail to see why you won’t even give it a try. More banks failed as people rushed to withdraw their money. My car failed its MOT. Once a student has failed on a few tasks, they lose motivation. Opponents say it’s a policy doomed to fail. She tried to put an all-women crew together, but failed dismally. The air-conditioning system failed on the hottest day of the year. The brakes on my bike failed halfway down the hill. They had tried and they had failed. Words fail me.Idioms used to suggest something that somebody can do if nothing else they have tried is successful If all else fails, you can always sell your motorbike.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: fail