Certain words in English can sound and spell too similar. The similarity could end up in one of the words becoming the alternate spelling of the other word. The evolution of the term “forego” and its relationship with “forgo” falls on similar lines.
The word “forego” means “to precede” or “to go before”. “Forgo”, on the other hand, means “to do without” or “to abstain from”. Though general usage has caused “forego” to become the alternate spelling of “forgo”, the words are not the same and should ideally not be used interchangeably.
If you’ve been using the terms “forego” and “forgo” interchangeably without realizing “forego” is a unique word by itself, keep reading.
“Forego” – Definition
As mentioned above, the word “forego” means “to go before” or “precede”. The word’s present participle “foregoing” implies something has occurred or been mentioned before. “Foregone”, its past participle, means “something is predictable”.
“Forego”, in Old English, was “foregán” – a word that merged “fore-” and “gán”. The prefix “fore-” means “earlier”, “in front”, or “before”. The term “gán” means “to go”. Putting the two together gives the current meaning of “forego”.
“Forgo” – Definition
“Forgo” means “to do without” or “skip”. The word “forgo” too has its origins in Old English – “forgán”, in this case. The word combines the prefix “for-” and “gán”. “For-” means “entailing prohibition, omission, exclusion, refusal, or failure”. The “for-” prefix has been in use for centuries in words such as “forbid” and quite a few other terms coined around or before 1600.
The Confusion Between “Forego” and “Forgo”
The words “forego” and “forgo” quite clearly do not mean the same thing. But because the two have such similar spellings and sound the same when pronounced, it’s easy to confuse one for the other.
The phrase “will forego the main course” may seem acceptable to more than a handful of English language writers and speakers. But theoretically speaking, it is an incorrectly worded phrase. The phrase “will forego the main course” is incorrect because “forego” doesn’t mean “skip”. The correct phrase is “will forgo the main course”.
If you happen to use “forego” in place of “forgo”, or the other way around, be ready to explain yourself to others because not all of your readers will oversee the glaring mistake. Having said that, “forego” is often considered the alternate spelling of “forgo”, and, therefore, people tend to use the two terms interchangeably.
Long story short, you could use “forego” instead of “forgo”, and no one would bat an eye. But since the objective here is to get the facts right and not reinforce popular sentiments, it’s important to not accept wrong conventions.
Distinguishing Between “Forego” and “Forgo”
To discern the two terms “forego” and “forgo” from each other, consider the prefixes that the two words employ: “fore” and “for”, respectively.
If that seems complicated, take note of the letter “e”, which creates a semantic difference between the two. The alphabet “e” is important because it features not just in the original forms of the respective words but also in their various inflections.
For example, “forego”, “foregone”, “foregoing”, “forewent”, etc. all have the letter “e” after “for-”. On the other hand, the words “forgo”, “forgone”, “forwent”, “forgoing”, etc., skip the “e”.
Although the individual variations of the terms “forego” and “forgo” are quite similar in their spellings and identical in their pronunciations, the different inflections and their comparison terms do not mean the same.
Using the Word “Forego” in Writings
The verb “forego” is not commonly used in modern English, particularly when compared to “forgo”. It mainly features in traditional texts.
However, the word is used figuratively at times in modern usage or in a sentence such as “The reputation of the new boss foregoes her”. The word’s usage in the sentence means “people know about the new boss before even meeting her”.
Owing to the rare usage of the term, the word “forego” and its various inflections could be used to denote “to do without”, which is the meaning of “forgo”. For example:
- She forewent slicing the onion, eating it just like she would have eaten an apple.
In the above sentence, the verb “forewent” is assumed to mean “go without” or “skip” and is, therefore, considered correct by most people. But only a knowledgeable person would know the usage of “forewent” in the sentence is incorrect.
Here is another sentence that uses “foregoing” incorrectly:
- Somewhere along the path, the aspiration to become a professional basketball player was misinterpreted as foregoing everyday, healthy life.
Not to mention, the right word to use in the above sentence is “forgoing”.
Since “foregoing” indicates “something has happened before”, the right way to use it in a sentence is as follows:
- The foregoing statement wasn’t meant as some endorsement.
The word’s past participle “foregone” is commonly used in the expression “foregone conclusion”, which means “it is certain to happen”. For example:
- The foregone conclusion was that the defendant would be found guilty.
The expression “foregone conclusion” was popularized by William Shakespeare in his book, Othello.
In “foregone conclusion”, “the foregoing”, and similar phrases, “foregone” retains its original meaning. The phrase “the foregoing”, for instance, is used a lot more in formal writing, and it means “something has been mentioned already”. An example sentence with the phrase:
- The foregoing objectives must be used to measure the effectiveness and performance of the superintendent.
Though rarely used, “forego” could also be used as a noun, spelled “foregoer”. It means “someone who precedes”.
Using the Term “Forgo” in Texts
Compared to “forego”, the verb “forgo” is a lot more commonly used, at least in print, which includes all of the word’s inflected forms: “forwent”, “forgoes”, “forgoing”, and “forgone”. People “forgo” fancy coffee beverages, social media, reading the news, eating sugar (if the objective is to lose weight), etc.
Here are a couple of sentences using the various forms of “forgo”:
- She forwent the gym and went home instead.
- If you want to become healthy, you must forgo alcohol and cigarettes.
As mentioned above, “forego” could be used as an alternate spelling of “forgo”. Here are a couple of sentences illustrating that:
- Perhaps he must forego the fun so that he could focus more on his game.
- She couldn’t forego her wild heritage.
The above sentences can have “forgo” instead of “forego” and still be grammatically correct. It’s, however, recommended that you always use “forgo” in sentences like above. Individual style books, such as the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook, advise against using “forego” in place of “forgo”.
Example Sentences with the Word “Forego”
The following are sentences with the word “forego”:
P.S. In some sentences, the term “forego” may have assumed the meaning “to do without”.
- I will have to forego breakfast due to the early lunch appointment.
- Her reputation foregoes her despite all that’s happening around her.
- Considering the evidence’s weight, the verdict is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
- She is willing to forego the perks of her job.
- The foregoing folks made the tournament possible.
- The series of short videos shall forego the presentation.
- The herald shall forego the queen as the royal family enters the county.
- The scary music should have foregone the villain’s appearance on screen.
- The fact that he doesn’t possess enough experience for the job is a foregone conclusion.
Example Sentences with the Word “Forgo”
The following are example sentences using the word “forgo” in its multiple variations:
- I’ll take her advice, forgoing the pleasure.
- You may forgo the kiss if you think it’s inappropriate for the occasion.
- Students on a limited budget could forgo those luxuries just to save the rent money.
- Many people with beach homes have forgone traditional draperies in the recent past.
- Most millennials in the city have forgone cable TV, thanks to the multitude of online streaming services at their disposal.
- A good shot is one where the subjects are positioned naturally, forgoing contrived arrangements.
- Take the vaccine if you want to forgo the discomfort and congestion associated with the viral disease.
- Most insurance plans cover emergency dental surgery and root canals, but they forgo biannual check-ups.
- Women who wear strapless outfits forgo conventional bars entirely and opt for the adhesive cups or breast petals instead.
- She forwent the party and went home to attend to her sick son.
- The company’s CEO chose to forgo her bonus so that the employees could be saved from a layoff.
Kindly note, the word “forgo” and its multiple inflections can be replaced with “forego” and the particular term’s variations. Though doing so would be grammatically “incorrect”, it may seem perfectly fine to most people.
Though “forego” and “forgo” started out as individual words with their distinct meanings, one cannot deny the fact that the latter has encroached upon the former’s territory. This, as a result, has almost pushed “forego” to the brink of losing its identity.
If you thought “forego” and “forgo” meant the same thing, or they were alternate spellings of each other, you are not alone. But if you continue to use the two interchangeably after having learned the differences, it is incorrect, and you have no one but yourself to blame for that.