Forgo or Forego: What’s the Difference?

There are countless words in the English language that confuse people on a daily basis. Many of these words sound alike, many are spelled alike, and many have definitions that are so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart.

Despite sounding identical, the two words forgo vs. forego have different histories and different meanings. Words that fall into this category are called homophones.

What is the Difference Between Forgo and Forego?

In today’s post, I want to talk about the meanings of these two words and their functions within a sentence. Then, at the end, I will give you a trick to remember the difference between the two.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever mix up forgo or forego again.

When to Use Forgo

forgo versus forego grammar rulesForgo functions as a verb and means to abstain from; do without; waive.

  • I will forgo breakfast this morning because of my early lunch appointment.
  • Can we forgo the dessert? I want to leave now.
  • He convinced her to forgo her career as a teacher to start a business.

To forgo something is to willingly opt out or abstain from something. In the above example, the individual wants to opt out of having dessert in order to leave immediately.

When to Use Forego

define foregone conclusion sentenceForego can function either as a verb or an adjective. Forego means to go before, precede in place or time.

  • The previews will forego the feature film. (Verb)
  • With all of the controversy surrounding the man, his reputation foregoes him. (Verb)
  • The foregoing arguments dealt mostly with tax rates and expenditures. (Adjective)
  • All of the foregoing people made tonight’s event possible. (Adjective)

An easy way to tell the meaning of the word forego is to look at the word’s prefix: fore. This prefix means before in order, space, time, condition, etc.

Forego can also take a noun form, which is spelled foregoer. This words means—yes, you guessed it—someone who goes before, precedes.

  • The dancers are foregoers to the sporting event.

A Foregone (Forgone?) Conclusion: Foregone vs. Forgone

definition of foregoneHow exactly do you spell the popular phrase a foregone conclusion? Or is it a forgone conclusion? It’s common to see these mixed up, but it’s easy to avoid once you know how to use forego vs. forgo.

Based on the information outlined above, it’s clear the foregone (with two e’s) is the correct choice. A foregone conclusion is a conclusion that “went before” the actual question itself.

Although the question has yet to be asked, everyone already knows the answer, i.e., it’s a foregone conclusion.

  • Will Senator Smith vote with his party on the upcoming bill? Some say it’s a foregone conclusion.
  • These teams were so mismatched; the victory was a foregone conclusion.
  • Considering the weight of the evidence in the trial, the jury’s verdict is almost a foregone conclusion.

Are Forgo and Forego Interchangeable?

There are some websites that claim it’s acceptable to use forego and forgo interchangeably, and many dictionaries list them as variants of one another.

In the interest of one’s reputation as a writer, however, I would advise against such usage.

Most American and British style guides require the distinction to be made. For example, Fowler’s, Garner’s, The AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, etc., all point to the traditional distinction as the standard. And most of the dictionaries that do list one or the other as variants usually showcase a preferred choice.

For those reasons, I suggest sticking with the traditional usage.

Remember the Difference

The best way to remember the difference between forgo and forego is to look inside the words themselves.

As I mentioned above, forego has the prefix fore at its beginning, which gives away the meaning of the word. Just remember that forego means before and you will be all set.

Summary

Whether you mean forego or forgo is an important matter, as the words have separate histories and different meanings.

Forgo means to abstain from or do without.

Forego means to come before or precede.