Fair vs. Fare – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 10, 2017/ Uncategorized

fair versus fare

What’s the Difference Between Fair and Fare?

Fair and fare are homophones, which means they have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings.

Fair can act as a noun, adjective, or adverb. As a noun, fair refers to a gathering of people to buy and sell items, or for the purpose of amusement and entertainment.

As an adjective or adverb, fair can refer to something free from dishonesty, or something that is moderately good.

  • The fight between the seven-foot-tall man and the five-foot-tall man didn’t seem very fair. The tall man obviously had an unfair advantage.

Fare can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun, it can mean the price of a ticket or something for consumption such as food or a diet. As a verb, it means to go, to travel, or to experience good or bad luck.

  • The fare for air travel has been increasing over the past several years.

Let’s look at how to use these words in context and how to avoid mixing the two up.

Using Fair in a Sentence

When to use fair: Fair can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. It can relate to something being just, honorable, or evenly matched. Some synonyms for fair include impartial, unprejudiced, and unbiased.

Fair can also mean moderately good.

As a noun, it can also mean an event in which things are bought and sold, and various activities exist for amusement or another purpose.

For example:

  • I don’t play cards with her because she never plays fair. She always cheats. (adverb)
  • The weather is fair today. (adjective)
  • She wanted to ride the ferris wheel at the county fair and eat funnel cake. (noun)

There are several idioms and expressions that use fair.

For example:

  • a fair shake: just treatment
    • I never got a fair shake at receiving that job. The boss had already decided to give the position to his son before I had my interview.
  • all’s fair in love and war: one can do anything, no matter how bad, and it is justified if it is for love or war
    • Murder is normally not okay, but all’s fair in love and war.
  • a fair weather friend: a person who is only a friend when one has good fortune
    • I thought she was my friend while I had a good job, but later when I was poor and depressed I learned she never really liked me. She was just a fair weather friend.
  • fair to middling: so so
    • The food is okay but I wouldn’t say it’s great. It is just fair to middling.
  • a fair share: the amount honorably due to someone
    • We should split the remaining pizza equally so everyone has a fair share.

The use of fair to mean moderately good is slightly formal, so it is less common in casual conversations.

Using Fare in a Sentence

When to use fare: Fare can act as either a noun or a verb. It can mean something people consume (especially food) or the cost of a ticket when acting as a noun. When acting as a verb it means to travel or go or to experience good or bad fortune.

For example:

  • I hope you fare well on your journey around the world! (verb)
  • The normal fare for monks living in the monastery was plain bread and wine. (noun)

There are a couple common expressions that use fare:

  • to fare against: to perform against or compete against someone or something
    • I wonder how our team will fare against the more experienced and better funded team.
  • to fare up: to compare with something else
    • The student worked hard to improve his grades, but in the end his grades didn’t fare up well with those of the other students.
  • how did you fare?: question asking about the performance of someone.
    • I saw you ran a marathon last week. How did you fare?
  • fare thee well: good luck and goodbye
    • Fare thee well! I hope you return from your quest safely!

The last expression, fare thee well, is old fashioned and would sound out of place in modern English. However, it might appear in older literature or fictional novels.

Remembering Fair vs. Fare

This spelling differences between fair and fare can act as a helpful mnemonic device.

If a person goes to a fair, it typically is out in the open-air. Both fair and air contain the letters air. Also, fair means without bias. Both fair and bias contain the letters a and i.

Alternatively, fare can refer to a diet, travel, or price of a ticket. Fare, diet, travel, and price all have the letter e, while fair does not.

Outside Examples

  • Food from farm to tummy is such a big part of the fair, Friday through Aug. 20, that this year’s theme is the wonderful world of food. –USA Today
  • Michael Raines, Derrell Davis, Chris Paar and Laticia Wright are among the hundreds of people who stood in line Aug. 2, 2017, at the Amazon fulfillment center in Romeoville, participating in the e-commerce giant’s job fair. –Chicago Tribune
  • Amelia-Grace Harpham is a 16-year-old with wild, wavy hair and a love of reading. She prefers sci-fi shows like “Dr. Who” and “Star Trek” to the usual teen fare. –New York Post
  • The newest Asian destination to join the battle of the airfare bargains is Singapore. United is offering a $638 round-trip fare from LAX that includes all taxes and fees.–LA Times

Quiz: Fare vs. Fair

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either fare or fair, in the correct form.

  1. Typical ______________ at this restaurant includes pierogis and other Polish staples.
  2. It’s not ____________ that she always gets the lead role in the school play!
  3. The bus ___________ is too expensive for many residents in the city to afford.
  4. I can only go sailing during ___________ weather because I get seasick so easily.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use fair or fare? Despite having the same pronunciations, these two words are completely different and cannot be freely interchanged.

  • Fair can mean unprejudiced, moderately good, or a type of exhibition.
  • Fare means food or something else people consume or the price of a ticket.

Although both words are common, fair is more common than fare.


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