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Fair and Fare

Commonly Confused Words


Fair and Fare

John Candy as Wilbur in The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

The adjective fair means just and unbiased or pleasing, clear, and clean. The noun fair (as in "state fair") refers to an exhibition or exposition.

The noun fare refers to food and drink or a transportation fee (as in "bus fare"). The verb fare (as in "fare thee well") means to go, get along, succeed.


  • "Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not." (Oscar Wilde)

  • My friends bring their children to the fair every year.

  • The airline now charges extra for services that once were considered part of the standard fare.

Comic Observations: "A Fair Letter"
The following letter was received by a young lady at the post office of a Fair held for the benefit of a church.

Fairest of the Fair. When such fair beings as you have the fair-ness to honor our Fair with your fair presence, it is perfectly fair that you should receive good fare from the fair conductors of this Fair, and indeed it would be very un-fair if you should not fare well, since it is the endeavor of those whose wel-fare depends upon the success of this Fair, to treat all who come fair-ly, but to treat with especial fair-ness those who are as fair as yourself. We are engaged in a fair cause, a sacred war-fare; that is, to speak without un-fair-ness, a war-fare, not against the fair sex, but against the pockets of their beaux. We therefore hope, gentle reader, "still fair-est found where all is fair," that you will use all fair exertions in behalf of the praiseworthy af-fair which we have fair-ly undertaken. If you take sufficient interest in our wel-fare to lend your fair aid, you will appear fair-er than ever in our sight; we will never treat you un-fair-ly, and when you withdraw the light of your fair countenance from our Fair, we will bid you a kind Fare-well.

(Gleanings From the Harvest Fields of Literature, Science and Art: A Melange of Excerpta, Curious, Humorous, and Instructive, 2nd ed., collated by Charles C. Bombaugh. T. Newton Kurtz, 1860)


(a) The stranded traveler was reimbursed for the cost of his air _____.

(b) "To all, to each, a _____ good-night, and pleasing dreams, and slumbers light." (Walter Scott)

(c) A trade _____ is an exhibition organized so that companies can demonstrate their latest products.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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