The Red Pen: “Fair” vs. “Fare”

We Need to Talk About Grammar is a weekly feature in which I complain about grammatical mistakes I encounter all too often. Feel free to commiserate below, and check out the archives here!


I definitely didn’t study enough; I don’t think I’m going to fair very well on this exam.

The correct word to use in the above sentence is fare:

Fare (v.) – To perform in a specified way; also, cope or manage (i.e. “How are you faring?”).
Fair (v.) – “Fair” as a verb is pretty uncommon, but it can be used to mean “to smooth a surface to prepare it for being joined to another.” [LINK: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/fair.html]

A good way to remember this is the word “farewell”—when you say goodbye to someone, you often give some sort of well wishes when you do so. By using the word “farewell,” you are literally telling someone to “manage/do/perform well.”

Vol. 25 sound of music gif

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I suppose I should probably make a quick mention of the noun forms of these words, too; thankfully, I don’t see these confused too often:

Fair (n.) – A gathering of stalls and amusements for public entertainment; a carnival.
Fare (n.) – The money a passenger on public transportation has to pay for a ticket (“Southwest has really cheap fares this time of year!”); or, a range or type of food (“Delicious Italian fare”).

If I do see these two mixed up, it’s usually someone using fair to mean price of a transportation ticket; it’s pretty rare that I see it the other way around.

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