'Forgo' vs 'Forego': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 21, 2023

'Forgo' vs 'Forego' are often used interchangeably, but you'd be right to question that. Do they mean the same thing? When should you use each one? That's what we'll learn today.

In short:

  • To 'forgo' is to skip or abstain from something.
  • To 'forego' is to precede.

Should You Use 'Forgo' vs 'Forego'?

There's a lot of debate about whether to use 'forgo' or 'forego.' Some say they're interchangeable, whereas others advise using the correct spelling.

Let's look at the definition of each word.

What Does 'Forgo' Mean?

Forgo is a verb. To forgo something is to skip it, abstain, and do without. In other words, to not do it.

For example:

I'll think I'll forgo the usual formalities and cut right to the chase.

What Does 'Forego' Mean?

'Forego' is also a verb. It's used to refer to something that comes before. Hence the prefix fore-.

For example:

Shouldn't dinner forego dessert?

Some believe that you can spell the word in both senses, either 'forgo' or 'forego' (with or without the 'e.')

So What Is the Difference?

Here's the thing. If you want to get pedantic on this one, you definitely can. Let's look at the etymology of each word—specifically, their prefixes.

According to Etymonline, the prefix -for usually means "away, opposite, completely," from Old English for-, indicating loss or destruction.

And from the same source, the prefix fore-: with a sense of "before in time, rank, position," etc., or designating the front part or earliest time.

It's pretty clear then that you should use the former prefix to indicate abstinence and the latter to indicate something coming first.

However, if in doubt and you want to play it safe, use 'forgo' because it's the most widely accepted spelling.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Forgo' vs 'Forego'

To show you how to pronounce the words 'forgo' and 'forego' (they both sound the same), I'm going to spell them the way I think they sound:

[ fawr-goh ]

As for the International Phonetic Alphabet, they spell it like this:

/ fɔrˈgoʊ /

The words rhyme with 'glow,' 'slow,' and 'though.'

When to Use 'Forgo' vs 'Forego'

Let's now take a look at some example sentences that use these words. We'll start with 'forgo.'

Examples of 'Forgo'

You can't possibly expect me to forgo the holiday.

I brought in my own sandwich today, so I'm going to forgo lunch at the restaurant.

Why not forgo breakfast now that it's so late and go for a big brunch?

Examples of 'Forego'

His infamous reputation foregoes him everywhere.

A security demonstration from the flight attendants foregoes takeoff.

I think you skipped a step; what usually foregoes the procedure?

Concluding Thoughts on 'Forgo' vs 'Forego'

So there you have it; the difference between 'forgo' and 'forego.'

Let's summarize:

  • 'Forgo' means to abstain
  • 'Forego' means to come first
  • It's acceptable to use the spellings interchangeably

If you found this article helpful and want to read more, head to our Confusing Words blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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