Forego vs. forgo

The original definition of forego is to go before. This definition is easy to remember because both forego and before have the syllable fore, with an e. To forgo, meanwhile, is to do without (something) or to pass up voluntarily. But forgo has so completely encroached on forego‘s territory that the latter’s older sense is now essentially lost (outside legal contexts and the phrase foregone conclusion—see below), and forgo now bears the secondary definition to go before.

The past-tense forms of these verbs are forewent and forwent. Foregone and forgone are the past participles.

Examples

In searching, we had difficulty tracking down even a few instances of forego in its more traditional sense. Forego is almost always an alternative spelling of forgo, as in these cases:

The Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress could forego trying to approve a budget blueprint this year. [Reuters]

Faith is willing to forego permanency in this world, because faith lives for the future reality. [Big God, Britt Merrick]

Unions representing the county’s 8,000 workers agreed to forego cost-of-living raises for the next two years. [Baltimore Sun]

Foregone conclusion

Forego is preserved in the common phrase foregone conclusion, which refers to an outcome that is assured in advance. Forgone conclusion does appear some of the time, but the more logical spelling is much more common.

Examples

According to Jonathan Powell, of Positive Weather Solutions, a white Christmas for all of us in Britain is now “a foregone conclusion”. [Telegraph (UK)]

Yet, as Lee also knew, Confederate defeat was no foregone conclusion. [General Lee’s Army, Joseph Glatthaar]

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