Meaning of “fail” in the English Dictionary

"fail" in English

See all translations


uk /feɪl/ us /feɪl/

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 stay in and watch TV.

More examples

fail verb (EXAM)

A2 [ I or T ] to be unsuccessful, or to judge that someone has been unsuccessful, in a test or exam:

UK I passed in history but failed in chemistry.
US I passed history but failed chemistry.
A lot of people fail their driving test the first time.
She was sure she was going to fail.
The examiners failed him because he hadn't answered enough questions.

More examples

fail verb (NOT DO)

B2 [ I ] to not do something that you should do:

The staff had been promised a rise, 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 movie.
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.

More examples

fail verb (NOT HELP)

[ T ] to not help someone when you are expected to do so:

He failed her in her moment of need.
When I looked down and saw how far I had to jump, my courage failed me (= I felt very frightened).

failnoun [ C ]

uk /feɪl/ us /feɪl/

UK an unsuccessful result in a course, test, or exam:

John got three passes and four fails in his exams.

informal something that has been done very badly or gone completely wrong; a failure:

My pancakes were an epic fail (= completely unsuccessful).
The software crashes every time I open an email. What a fail.
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.

(Definition of “fail” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"fail" in American English

See all translations


us /feɪl/

fail verb (NOT SUCCEED)

[ I ] to not be able to do what you are trying to achieve or are expected to do:

[ + to infinitive ] She applied to Harvard University but failed to get accepted.

[ I ] If you fail to see/understand what something is, you do not agree with someone’s description of a situation:

[ + to infinitive ] I fail to see what the problem is (= I don’t think there is a problem).

fail verb (NOT PASS)

[ I/T ] to be unsuccessful, or to judge that someone has been unsuccessful in a test or examination:

[ I/T ] A lot of people fail (their driving test) the first time.
[ T ] She said she would fail any student who misses two exams.

fail verb (NOT DO)

[ I/T ] to not do something that should be done:

[ + to infinitive ] He promised to help, but failed to send a check.
[ + to infinitive ] She never fails to meet a deadline.

[ I/T ] To fail is also to not help someone when expected to:

[ T ] He failed her when she most needed him.

fail verb (STOP)

[ I ] to become weaker or stop working completely:

The bus driver said the brakes failed.

[ I ] If a business fails, it is unable to continue because of money problems.

adjective [ not gradable ] us /ˈfeɪ·lɪŋ/

He is in failing health and seldom goes outside any more.

(Definition of “fail” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"fail" in Business English

See all translations


uk /feɪl/ us

[ I ] to not succeeed in something you are trying to do:

fail to do sth They failed to reach an agreement with the board members.
fail in sth Last year the company failed in its bid to renew their contract.
All their efforts seem to have failed.
Some employees will not take risks because they're scared of failing.

[ I ] if a business fails, it is unsuccessful and cannot continue to operate:

Over 3000 small businesses failed in the first quarter of the year.
Is it better for the economy to let unsuccessful companies fail or to bail them out?

[ I or T ] to not pass an exam or test, or not reach a necessary standard:

About half of all candidates taking the more advanced exams fail.
The company repeatedly failed inspections by Health and Safety officials.

[ I ] if a machine or system fails, it stops working:

If the system fails for any reason, the emergency back-up will kick in.

[ I ] formal to not do something that you should do:

fail to do sth What can be done about clients who fail to pay their debts?

(Definition of “fail” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)