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English definition of “fail”

fail

verb uk   /feɪl/ us  

fail verb (NOT SUCCEED)

B2 [I] to not succeed in what you are trying to achieve or are expected to do: She moved to London in the hope of finding work as a model, but failed. This method of growing tomatoes never fails. He failed in his attempt to break the record. [+ to infinitive] She failed to reach the Wimbledon Final this year. The reluctance of either side to compromise means that the talks are doomed to (= will certainly) fail. if all else fails if none of our plans succeed: If all else fails, we can always spend the holidays at home.

fail verb (EXAM)

A2 [I or T] to be unsuccessful, or to judge that someone has been unsuccessful in a test or exam: I passed in history but failed in chemistry. A lot of people fail their driving test the first time. The examiners failed him because he hadn't answered enough questions.

fail verb (NOT DO)

B2 [I] to not do something that you should do: [+ to infinitive] He failed to arrive on time. The club had been promised a grant from the council, but the money failed to (= did not) materialize. You couldn't fail to be (= it is impossible that you would not be) affected by the film. I'd be failing in my duty if I didn't tell you about the risks involved in the project. fail to see/understand C2 used when you do not accept something: I fail to see why you can't work on a Saturday.

fail verb (STOP)

B2 [I] to become weaker or stop working completely: If my eyesight fails, I'll have to stop doing this job. The brakes failed and the car crashed into a tree. After talking non-stop for two hours, her voice started to fail. The old man was failing fast (= he was dying). [I] If a business fails, it is unable to continue because of money problems.

fail verb (NOT HELP)

[T] to not help someone when you are expected to do so: He failed her when she most needed him. When I looked down and saw how far I had to jump, my courage failed me (= I felt very frightened).

fail

noun [C] uk   /feɪl/ us  
an unsuccessful result in a course, test, or exam: John got three passes and four fails in his exams.
without fail If you do something without fail, you always do it: I go to the gym every Monday and Wednesday, without fail. used to tell someone that they must do something: Be there at nine o'clock, without fail.

fail

exclamation uk   /feɪl/ US informal us  
used for saying that you disapprove of what someone did: You actually did his homework for him? Fail!
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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