I've heard this expression on TV several times, but is this correct grammatically? Doesn't it mean that the teacher did not help me in the time of need rather than the teacher gave me an F?

How to construct this sentence (The teacher failed me) properly, and make it grammatically correct, to mean the latter (the teacher gave me an F)?

1 Answer 1


It is ambiguous and could have either meaning, or it could mean both at once. Teachers have some discretion on who to give a passing or failing grade to. If you feel that the cause of the "F" is the teacher's (unfair) grading you can say "The teacher failed me" to mean "... gave me a failing grade". This is rather casual.

You can also use "the teacher failed me" to mean "... didn't teach me well" This meaning is rather more formal. You need to consider the context to understand which is meant:

I got an "F" in Science!? I can't believe Mr Henderson failed me, even after I offered to tidy the lab every week before the test.

We think Mr Henderson failed us because he didn't arrive to lessons on time, never graded our papers, and his explainations were confused and unclear. I could have obtained a grade A instead of a C if we had had a better teacher.

  • What about the formal, and grammatically correct, way of structuring the sentence "The teacher failed me" to mean "... gave me a failing grade" ?
    – Zaeem
    Oct 12, 2019 at 12:33
  • 1
    I'm not sure what you mean. "The teacher failed me" already grammaticall correct and, in context, can mean "the teacher gave me a failing grade". (Which would be a more formal expression)
    – James K
    Oct 12, 2019 at 18:49

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