Forego, Forewent and Foregone and Forgo, Forwent and Forgone - the difference

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
Forego (forewent and foregone) means to precede.

Forgo (forwent and forgone) means to do without (something).

(However, they are almost interchangeable these days.)

Forego, Forewent and Foregone

The word forego means to precede(i.e. to go before). The past tense of forego is forewent. The past participle is foregone. For example:
  • The dancers will forego the introduction. (rare)
  • Luckily, I forewent George, who is a brilliant speaker. (rare)
  • It was no surprise to anyone they won the election. It was a foregone conclusion.

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, it has become 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. (Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881)

Unlike forego and forewent, the word foregone is still common (e.g. a foregone conclusion).

Forgo, Forwent and Forgone

The word 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.
  • 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. (Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642)
  • She forwent the starter to ensure enough room for the treacle tart.
  • I would have forgone the starter, if I'd known there was treacle tart!

Forgo, forwent and forgone are all common in modern English.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

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