according to this source:


a:to disappoint the expectations or trust of:

her friends failed her

b:to miss performing an expected service or function for his wit failed him

so accordint to b: could I rewrite the:

"his wit failed him" to: "his wit failed for him" making fail intransitive?

  • Why would you do this? Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 15:19
  • Sure, his wit failed him. Anything or anyone can fail you.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 15:21
  • 1
    @henryke araudjo I would also ask why you would want to do this.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 16:39
  • @all I would like to know first of all if that would be semantically correct. secondly I'm practicing the use of preposition. It's hard for me to use the right preposition in a sentence. when build a setence mentally I aways think of it using preposition Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


No, as the dictionary says this is a transitive use of the verb "fail". In this transitive use, the subject is the thing that was expected to perform a service, and the direct object is the person for whom the service would have been done.

The object in this sense is a direct object. None of the intransitive senses could apply to "His wit failed for him".

  • according to this definition: "to miss performing an expected service or function for" there is a "for" in it I thought I could use it in rewriting, I thought that is how it would works Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 12:25
  • Yes, the transitive form of "fail" can be glossed as a phrase ending with "for".... that doesn't mean the intransative form of of "fail" can have take a "for...." prepositional phrase. (it also doesn't mean it's impossible, but consult the dictionary, a you see that it doesn't). I can probably find more examples like this.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 17:09
  • So it's OK to use: "his wit failed for him" as a transitive form right? Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 18:11
  • No.... That is intransitive. There is no direct object. The correct form is "His wit failed him". This sense requires a direct object. If you don't have a direct object it doesn't mean the same.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 18:30

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