From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary Englishfailfail1 /feɪl/ ●●● S2 W1 verb 1 not succeed [intransitive]FAIL to not succeed in achieving something It looks likely that the peace talks will fail.fail in He failed in his attempt to regain the world title.fail to do something Doctors failed to save the girl’s life. Millions of people have tried to quit smoking and failed miserably (=been completely unsuccessful). his efforts to save his failing marriage If all else fails, you may be advised to have an operation.2 not do something [intransitive]FAIL to not do what is expected, needed, or wantedfail to do something The letter failed to arrive. Firms that fail to take advantage of the new technology will go out of business. The government are failing in their duty to protect people.RegisterFail to do something is used mainly in writing and in formal contexts. In everyday English, people usually say do not do something instead: The letter failed to arrive. → The letter didn’t arrive.3 exam/test a) [intransitive, transitive]FAIL to not pass a test or examination I failed my driving test the first time I took it. He failed maths but passed all his other subjects. b) [transitive] to decide that someone has not passed a test or examination Her work was so bad that I had no choice but to fail her.4 → I fail to see/understand5 company/business [intransitive]BBC if a company or business fails, it is unable to continue because of a lack of money6 machine/body part [intransitive]STOP MOVING if a part of a machine or an organ in your body fails, it stops working The engine failed on take-off. The hospital said that his kidneys were failing. 7 healthMI [intransitive] if your sight, memory, health etc is failing, it is gradually getting weaker or is not as good as it was Failing eyesight forced him to retire early.8 → never fail to do something9 → your courage/will/nerve fails (you)10 → fail somebody11 crops [intransitive]TAC if crops fail, they do not grow or produce food, for example because of bad weather12 rains [intransitive]DN if the rains (=a lot of rain that falls at a particular time each year) fail, they do not come when expected or it does not rain enough → words fail me at word1(29)THESAURUSfail to not succeed – used about people, plans, methods etcThe plan failed.They failed to persuade her to change her mind.This method never fails.go wrong if something you do goes wrong, it fails after starting wellThe experiment went wrong when the chemicals combined to form a poisonous gas.not work if something does not work, it does not do what you want it to doThe drugs don’t work.I tried to fix it with glue, but that didn’t work.be unsuccessful /ˌʌnsəkˈsesfəl◂/ to not have the result you wantedHis first attempt to get a teaching job was unsuccessful.The search was unsuccessful.be a failure to be unsuccessful, with the result that you have wasted your effortsThe government’s 5-year plan to modernize the economy was a complete failure.backfire if a plan or action backfires, it does the opposite of what it was intended to doHis plan to get attention backfired, and instead of being promoted he lost his job.in vain if you try to do something in vain, you fail to do itThey tried in vain to save him.All her efforts had been in vain. → See Verb table
Examples from the Corpusfail• ''How did you do in accountancy?'' ''I failed''.• In the last ten minutes of the game, one of the television cameras failed.• "How did Chris do in his driving test?" "He failed."• Peace talks between the two countries have failed.• Imprisonment is a harsh measure that should be used only when every other reasonable avenue has failed.• When it came up for a vote in the House, the amendment failed.• Marriages can fail, and divorce is sometimes necessary.• His heart failed and there was nothing we could do to save him.• One of the engines failed at 30,000 feet.• Many of the boys in the program had been failing at school.• If they were trying to put us out of business, they have failed completely.• My attempt to lose weight failed completely.• Across the state, corn crops failed due to the drought.• Jonathan failed his law exams at the end of the year.• If your marriage fails it can be difficult to make a new start in life.• Millions of people have tried to quit smoking and failed miserably.• If I fail my driving test again, I'm going to give up.• I failed my math test.• What he fails to add is that nowadays information is as leaky as a fistful of sand.• I failed to convince him that I was right.• Having failed to find her friend, she decided to return home.• It has failed to maintain the civilization to which he has given his life as a man.• Yet he failed to subvert even his vulnerable neighbour.• Cal and Stanford so far have tried, and failed, to sweep the Washington road trip.• A large number of businesses failed when interest rates rose.• Our plan to go into business failed when the bank refused to lend us enough money.• A very high percentage of small businesses fail within their first year.failed in ... attempt• During the Hayes administration, southerners had failed in their attempt to accomplish repeal by adding riders to appropriation bills.• Read in studio Count Nikolai Tolstoy has failed in his attempt to avoid paying libel damages.• Failed SinnFein failed in an attempt to co-opt him on to the council on Wednesday night.• You have failed in your attempt to convince me of the coincidence between the bourgeois and the human.• The champion jockey failed in his attempt to overturn a five-day suspension awarded for his riding of Silver Wizard.• I am absolutely sure that my friend Jimmy Wall and I failed in our attempt to set a record.• Greene King failed in its attempt to take over Morland; it now owns a 29.32% stake in the Thames Valley brewer.fail to do something• Guinness was accused of bad faith, in particular for failing to adhere to promises made in the official offer documents.• He failed to be sufficiently accountable to the board.• It was also agreed that should either party fail to comply, sanctions would be imposed.• After they failed to find their intended victim, they embarked on an indiscriminate anti-foreigner rampage.• Two of them - who had failed to pay - are run by Mr Cowell.• For a split second, Constance failed to realise that he had released his grip on her.• Some people not only fail to speak up but talk with their hands wandering to cover their mouths.• She is described by the Argive elders as speaking in riddles because they fail to understand her predictions.