Forego or Forgo?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Forego" and "Forgo"?

"Forego" and "forgo" are different words. (The difference between "forego" and "forgo" has nothing to do with US and UK spelling conventions.)
  • "Forego" ("forewent" and "foregone") means "to precede."
  • "Forgo" ("forwent" and "forgone") means "to do without (something)."
Due a lack of adherence to this distinction (particularly over the last century), many guides now advise that these words can safely be used interchangeably, with context determining the intended meaning.
forgo, forego, forgone, or foregone?
The graph shows that "forego benefits" (technically an error) was more common than the correct version ("forgo benefits") for nearly 80 years of the last century. Since the late 90s (most probably due to the rise of the internet), this error is being corrected. (More below)

More about "Forego," "Forewent," and "Foregone"

The verb "forego" means "to precede" (i.e., to go before). The past tense of "forego" is "forewent." The past participle is "foregone."

Example sentences with "forego":
  • The dancers will forego the introduction. correct tick
  • ("Forego" is a rare word.)
  • Luckily, I forewent George, who is a brilliant speaker. correct tick
  • ("Forewent" is a rare word.)
  • It was no surprise to anyone they won the election. It was a foregone conclusion. correct tick
  • (In modern English, "foregone" is by far the most common form of the verb to "forego.")
When used to mean "to precede," "forego" and "forewent" are rarely seen in modern English. They are most commonly seen as misspellings of "forgo" and "forwent." In fact, they are so common as misspellings [evidence], it is debatable whether they are still misspellings. In other words, "forego" and "forewent" are considered by many to be acceptable alternatives for "forgo" and "forwent."

Here is an example of "forego" being used "incorrectly" but acceptably:
  • Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage. (Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli)
Unlike "forego" and "forewent," the word "foregone" is still common (e.g., a foregone conclusion).

More about "Forgo," "Forwent," and "Forgone"

The verb "forgo" means "to do without (something)." The past tense of "forgo" is "forwent." The past participle is "forgone." For example:
  • Jason said he would forgo the pay incentive to stay with the team. correct tick
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. correct tick (Astronomer Galileo Galilei)
  • She forwent the starter to ensure enough room for the treacle tart. correct tick
  • I would have forgone the starter, if I'd known there was treacle tart! correct tick

"Forgo," "forwent," and "forgone" are all common in modern English.

Remembering "Forego"

"Forego" means "to precede" or "to go before." Let the "fore" part of forego remind you of "to go before"

Stick to the Rules

"Forego" and "forgo" are pretty much interchangeable nowadays, but we would advise sticking to the original rules because they are easier to defend than saying "they're interchangeable." Also of note, you will hardly ever need the verb "to forego" unless you're using it in the form "foregone."

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Past tense Past participle List of easily confused words

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