flunk/fail

linlon

Senior Member
mandarin
Hi,
1.'Tony flunked/failed chemistry last semester.'

Does the sentence mean Tony had to repeat the chemistry course or not necessary? Are 'flunked' and 'failed' the same meaning here?

Thank you very much.
 
  • Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    "Flunked" and "failed" have exactly the same meaning in AE; however, "flunk" is informal and "fail" is formal.

    As to whether Tony has to repeat the course, it depends on his situation. If he is required to pass a chemistry course, then he will have to repeat the course he failed. If the chemistry course was merely an elective (optional) course, he probably wouldn't have to repeat it.
     

    linlon

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    Thank you, Joelline and Matching Mole for your kind replies.
    'Tony had an history exam yesterday, but he failed or flunked the exam.'

    Does this sentence mean he did not pass the exam ,but it doesn't mean he will have to repeat the course? Thank you.
     

    Terry Morti

    Senior Member
    UK
    From American movies 'flunk' is well understood in the UK, but would be thought not just informal but very American as well.

    Traditionally, we just 'fail' on this side of the pond. Retakes are another matter altogether.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Yes, to fail/flunk chemistry means you have failed the entire course and, if it is required for your diploma, you must take the course again.

    To fail/flunk a test means you have failed the test and doesn't say anything about retaking it or whether it means you will fail the whole course.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Yes, to fail/flunk chemistry means you have failed the entire course and, if it is required for your diploma, you must take the course again. [...]
    I agree with that statement up to a point.

    As said by Moley, there is nothing in flunk or fail that means the test must be retaken. That depends entirely on the examining body. As a result of the flunking or failure, you may need to retake the test in order to continue the course, but sometimes that is not an option.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I don't know about in BE, but in AE when we say "flunk/fail chemistry" that refers to the entire course of chemistry and not to a chemistry test or exam. So that's why I say if, as in the original statement, you say that you have flunked or failed chemistry, that means you have failed an entire course and once you have failed an entire course, as Joelline said, you will have to retake the course if it is required for your particular diploma.

    I think probably some of the differences in opinion here stem from differences in educational systems. I'm only speaking of normal practice in the American educational system.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Do you mean that in the American educational system it is impossible to fail to get your diploma? I was trying, badly, to explain that if you flunk/fail chemistry there are at least two possible futures:
    (1) You retake the test, pass, and continue with your course.
    (2) You are not allowed to retake the test, and you are thrown off the course.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    OK, now I'm getting confused. The original question was about "failing/flunking chemistry." As I implied and as dobes stated, here, in the US, that means failing or flunking the entire course.

    Then, panj asked, "Do you mean that in the American educational system it is impossible to fail to get your diploma?" The answer is, "it depends." Why did you take the chemistry course? Was the course required in order to get your diploma. If that is the case, then you will not get a diploma until/unless you pass the course. However, if the course was an "elective" (non-required) course that you took to satisfy some general requirement (e.g., Natural science requirement: take any 3 natural science courses), then you need not retake the course. You may repeat the chemistry course OR you may take another natural science course (and pass it!) to satisfy the general requirement.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That makes sense.
    All I was pickily trying to make clear was that although flunking Chemistry could well mean you retake the test, the flunking and the possibility of retaking are logically separate.

    You may flunk, then retake - and either flunk again or pass.
    You may flunk, and decide not to retake - with various consequences.
    You may flunk, and not be allowed to retake - with various consequences.
    That just about covers it :)
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I teach ESL in Europe, and I have to say I was very surprised to learn that students who fail the final exam for a course here 1) automatically fail the course, because the final exam grade often IS the course grade; and 2) routinely get a chance to retake the exam and therefore pass the course! In Slovakia, they can sometimes re-take an exam more than once in an effort to pass the course without having to take the entire course over. I never heard of this kind of second chance in the US -- it might be possible to fail the final exam and yet pass the course if your other coursework was really good, but once the course was failed and the grade was in, that was it. You did not get the chance to retake tests to try to achieve a passing grade!
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    That makes sense.
    All I was pickily trying to make clear was that although flunking Chemistry could well mean you retake the test, the flunking and the possibility of retaking are logically separate.

    You may flunk, then retake - and either flunk again or pass.
    You may flunk, and decide not to retake - with various consequences.
    You may flunk, and not be allowed to retake - with various consequences.
    That just about covers it :)
    It seems to me that there remains a misunderstanding possibly due to a difference between British and American educational systems.

    First, if you fail/flunk chemistry (which would not usually be capitalized, but would be in, for example, Chemistry 101), then you've failed the entire course. There's no question of passing the course simply by retaking the test: You have to take the course again if you wish to pass the course. If it's simply a matter of one test and not a whole course, it would be expressed as fail/flunk one's chemistry test.

    Now, it may well be that in some school in the US, you might be able to retake an important test in a chemistry course, but if so, it's very far removed from the usual practice.

    (Or it may be that college chemistry is taught in a different way from liberal arts college courses. I took chemistry only in high school, and there was no option of retaking tests.)
     
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