“Fair” vs. “Fare”: What’s The Difference?

light blue text on dark blue background: fair vs. fare

Fare and fair are pronounced exactly the same and have many different meanings spanning different parts of speech, including nouns, adjectives, and verbs. This can make things very confusing. Is it fare well or farewell? And when you ask someone how things turned out, should you say How did you fare? or How did you fair?

In this article, we’ll break down the differences, provide lots of examples, and give you a handy guide that tells you which word to use depending on what you mean. Stick around to the end and see how you fare on the quiz!

Quick summary

Both fair and fare are commonly used as nouns: fair usually refers to an event; fare commonly refers to fees for rides or to a specific kind of food or entertainment. If you want a verb, you probably want fare, especially if it pertains to how things turn out. If you want an adjective, you always want fair, which can mean honest, proper, average, pale, and clear, among other things.

Should I use fair or fare?

Since there are so many different senses of fair and fare, we’ve created this handy guide that’s broken down by part of speech: noun, adjective, and verb uses. For each part of speech, we will tell you which word should be used for each meaning, plus some examples of each sense in use.

As a noun

Both fair and fare can be nouns, and both are quite common. But there are more senses of fare.

meaning fair or fare? examples
an event with attractions or vendors fair county fair; book fair; job fair
the fee for a ride or ticket fare bus fare; train fare
the person who pays this fee; the rider fare My driver said I was his last fare of the night.
a particular kind of food fare pub fare; healthy fare; Italian fare
something offered for entertainment or consumption fare highbrow fare; It was mostly children’s fare.

As an adjective

Only fair is used as an adjective.

meaning fair or fare? examples
honest, equitable, and free from bias fair a fair decision; a fair trade; That’s not fair!; opposite: unfair
proper and according to the rules fair a fair contest; fair play
average fair a fair attempt; The food at that restaurant was just fair.
moderately large, ample fair fair income; fair portions
having pale skin and light hair fair I have fair skin, so I get sunburned easily.
attractive fair fair maiden; fair youths
of weather, nice or clear fair fair weather; fair skies
favorable, promising fair The conditions were fair for building.

Speaking of fair skies, what’s the difference between weather and climate?

As a verb

Fare is much more commonly used as a verb. Fair can be used as a verb in several ways, but they are mostly very specific and not commonly used (many pertain to shipbuilding, for example).

meaning fair or fare? examples
to get on or manage fare I hope you fared well at the conference.
to turn out or happen in the way specified fare I hope things fared well at the conference.

Is it How did you fare? Or fair?

When you want to ask someone how something turned out for them, you want to say: How did you fare? As a verb, fare means “to experience the kind of fortune or treatment specified” (as in She fared poorly in the election) or “to happen or turn out in a certain way” (as in Things will fare better, you’ll see).

Fair well or fare well? Or farewell?

This somewhat less common use of fare meaning “to happen or turn out in a certain way” is typically paired with well as an adverb, as in I hope things fare well for him. The parting word farewell, which is used as a way of saying goodbye, is based on the verb phrase fare well and literally means “May you fare well”—in other words, “I hope you do well” or “I hope things go well for you.”

Fair can be used as a verb in several ways, so it’s possible for the phrase fair well to be used in specific contexts, but it’s not common and it’s not idiomatic like fare well is.

Examples of fair and fare used in a sentence

There are many, many uses of the words fair and fare. These examples can help you remember how to keep them straight:

  • I had a great time at the county fair this year.
  • Cab fare seems to get more expensive every year.The cab driver picked up three fares in quick succession.
  • I’m a big fan of diner fare, especially late at night.
  • The fare at the film festival included both classics and new releases.
  • Most people agreed that it was a fair ruling by the judge.
  • You agreed that the contest rules were fair.
  • Business has been only fair recently, not great.
  • My pay is quite fair; I have enough for my needs.
  • Fair hair is easier to dye than dark hair.
  • We’ve had a nice stretch of fair weather, but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.
  • The conditions are fair for outdoor activities today.
  • How did you fare at the grocery store?
  • I regret to announce that my attempt at painting did not fare well.
  • I had heard the food at the Renaissance carnival was just average, and it was true: the fair fare was just fair, but the price was fair and so was the weather, and all in all we fared well before bidding farewell to the knights and fair maidens.

Take the quiz

We’ve all had our fair share of confusing words, but hopefully you have a good grasp on these two words. You can find out by seeing how you fare on this quick quiz on fair vs. fare.

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