Learn English – In the phrase “to see how something fares / fairs”, is it “fare” or “fair” that should be used?


"To see how something(someone) fares, or fairs".
Which is the correct one to use in this expression? And what is the etymology, or history behind the expression?

Best Answer

The verb is to fare:

  • When you send your daughter off to camp, you hope she’ll fare well. That’s why you bid her a fond farewell. When you want to see how something will work out, you want to see how it fares. “Fair” as a verb is a rare word meaning “to smooth a surface to prepare it for being joined to another.”


  • The word fare in this sense is from the Old English verb faran, “to journey.” In modern usage, to fare usually doesn’t mean “to travel,” but we do still talk about seafarers, “those who travel on the sea,” and wayfarers, those who travel along the roads. A popular 19th century hymn was “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” by James Montgomery (1771-1854) George Coles (1792-1858).

  • Also from faran is the word farewell, now a synonym for goodbye. It’s a shortening of “may you fare well.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, farewell was

    • usually said to the departing person, who replied with good-bye.
  • Sometimes one hears the expression “not so much as a fare-thee-well” as in He left for Greece without so much as a fare-thee-well!

  • The spelling fair can be used as a verb (dialect) in reference to the weather as in Looks like it’s going to fair up, or as a craft term meaning “to make fair, level, or smooth.”

  • In modern usage, to fare usually means “to do” or “to get along“:

    • How did you fare on your exam? I don’t think he’s faring too well in his new job.