Every time I’m about to say forewent, I put on the brakes & grope for a way to recapitulate my utterance sans this awkward word. Not that this happens often, but I’m still curious — do other people feel as uncomfortable using this word as I do? Why can’t you be a regular verb, forego! Something wrong happened when intransitive go inspired the transitive forego. That’s my theory, at least. So I’ll be using the Corpus of Contemporary American English to compare frequency of usage between forego, foregone (v.), & forewent. & Google NGrams to see historical trends of usage.
Anyway, here are the numbers:
COCA hits: 381
COCA hits: 86
COCA hits: 5
And here’s a 3-Gram mapping historical trends of usage of each verb form.
Judging by the path traced by forego (in blue), I’d say that this verb is becoming increasingly disfavored in general. Keep in mind that the NGram of foregone includes its adjectival use, for which there are 303 COCA hits, so it doesn’t mean a whole lot to see that it’s risen in usage since the 1800s. And forewent has always been pretty much at a flat-line. Here’s forewent alone so we can get a better sense of how it’s trended over time:
Not a popular word today & it seems to have been that way for a while. I can’t conclude from any of this that people tense up like I do when they have this word on the tips of their tongues, but it’s still entirely possible. Anyone else out there have any particular sentiments about this word or other ones like it?
P.S. I think after writing this I’ve become a bit more comfortable with it.
Megan L. Risdal