fore- or for-?

If you're wondering whether to spell a word with for- or fore-, it's helpful to think about the meaning of the word you have in mind.

Words beginning with for-

  • for- is generally added to words to convey the meaning of ‘banning’, ‘neglecting’, ‘doing without’, or ‘giving up’. For example:

forbid = ‘refuse to allow’

forbear = ‘stop yourself from doing something’

forfeit = ‘give something up’

  • for- is much less common than fore-. Here are some common words that begin with for-:

forgive; forgiveness; forlorn; forbearance; forget; forgetful; forsake; forswear; forgo.

Words beginning with fore-

  • fore- is used when the meaning is ‘before’, ‘in advance’, or ‘in front of’. It's used to form words such as forecourt (= an open area in front of a building) or forecast (= say what will or might happen in the future).

There are far more words beginning with fore- than those beginning with for-. Here are some of the most common:

forefront; foresight; forearm; foreman; foreboding; foregone; forename; forestall; foreground; foretaste; forerunner; forehead; foretell; foresee; forethought; forefather; foreshadow; forewarn; forefinger; foreshore; foreword.

There are some words beginning with for- and fore- that sound identical when they’re spoken and this can understandably cause confusion. For example, to forbear means to ‘stop yourself from doing something’ while a forebear is an ancestor. If you’re in any doubt about which spelling to use, always check in a dictionary.

 

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