How Do You Fare?

By Maeve Maddox

In an article about the different functioning of the two sides of the brain, I read this:

People with this type of “wiring” usually fair very well in school due to the auditory teaching.

The word wanted here is fare since the writer means that people who learn a certain way “get on” or “perform” well in school.

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.

Note: This post is concerned with the use of fare as verb. Both fare and fair are used as other parts of speech.

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3 Responses to “How Do You Fare?”

  • Jon

    You live and learn; I’d’ve assumed that it shared some ancestry with the French “faire”, (to do or to make).

    Then again, maybe faran and the origins of faire do converge further somewhere back in time (presumably before all words join back together into some kind of primal grunt-and-point based language… :-).

  • Maeve

    French faire derives from Latin facere, “to make.” English fare goes back to Latin portare, to carry, bring. By the time it got to English it meant “to travel, to go on a journey.”

  • Tony Hearn

    Maeve writes: ‘French faire derives from Latin facere, “to make.” English fare goes back to Latin portare, to carry, bring. By the time it got to English it meant “to travel, to go on a journey.” ‘
    So close, but so far! Yes, French ‘faire’ derives directly from Latin ‘facere’, but English ‘fare’ does not *derive* from Latin ‘portare’. Rather they share a common ancestry in the much older Indo-European mother-tongue about 6,000 years ago.

    ‘Fare prompts another thought. In some British English dialects ( I’m familiar with that of East Anglia) ‘fare’ is used in a weaker sense, as in: ‘That fare to be going to rain’.

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