You may have seen fare as a prefix for most Italian words.
Have you ever thought about all meanings of fare in Italian verbs?
How do you use them?
All Different Meanings of the Verb “Fare”
Fare is one of the most versatile Italian verbs. If you type it on an online translator, it will probably just tell you that it just means “to make” or “to do“.
But think about it: these are both phrasal verbs.
You understand where this is going, right? Yeah: although it’s hard to list every meaning of fare, today we’re going to give it a shot.
Before we start, let me warn you: this is going to be a long post. If you check an online dictionary, you’ll find 40+ different meanings of fare. But don’t panic: you won’t have to learn them all.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we don’t like lists. Sure, they’re necessary in cases like this, but they’re not the best way to learn a language.
Understanding the logic behind a certain use of a word is waaay more effective than repeating a bunch of meanings by heart – and it saves you lots of time.
So, I’ve narrowed the list below by cutting the obsolete meanings and the redundant voices. I’ve also filled it with explanations and examples, so you’ll be able to interiorize it without learning all the points one by one.
The Meaning of fare…
Fare can be used as both a transitive and an intransitive verb. It can change its meaning when used in its reflexive form.
It is featured in many idiomatic expressions along with farla (to make it) or its pronominal form farsi.
I know that seems like a lot to learn, but trust me. It will be easier than you think, and knowing how to use this verb will make you able to speak much more fluently in everyday conversations.
So let’s dive into the meaning of fare, starting with how to use it as a transitive verb.
… as a transitive verb
As I wrote, the most common words used to translate fare from Italian to English are “to make” and “to do”.
That is because, when it is used as a transitive verb, the meaning of fare is always linked to the idea of completing something.
It can be an action, a task… or even a mathematical operation, a period, and a distance. But let’s see each case.
The first meaning that comes to mind is “to make something“, like in “making a chair” or “doing your homework“.
Oggi abbiamo fatto un pupazzo di neve.
Today we made a snowman.
By extension, fare can also mean “to prepare something“, like in “fare la cena” (making dinner) or “fare il letto” (making the bed).
We do the same in English, but Italians apply that to a wider range of things, and this results in a lot of idiomatic expressions that we’ll see later.
And if we go further by the same logic, fare can mean “to provoke something”, like in:
- fare rumore (“to make noise“);
- fare scandalo (“to cause a scandal“);
- fare schifo (“to suck“);
- fare ombra (“to cast a shadow”)
And if you’ve just finished doing something, you can also use fare to avoid repeating a verb.
Cominciò a pulire i piatti, e quando ebbe fatto andò in salotto.
He started doing the dishes, and when he finished he went to the living room.
And speaking of finishing or completing something, fare can also mean:
- to sum up to something;
- to cost;
- to form a group;
- to have a birthday;
- to cover a distance;
- to behave;
Here are some examples for each case.
2+2 fa 4 e 5*5 fa 25. La matematica non è un opinione.
2+2 makes 4 and 5*5 makes 25. Math is not an opinion.
Quanto fanno due mele e tre pere?
How much do 2 apples and 3 pears cost?
Fate proprio una bella coppia
You two make a really nice couple.
Oggi faccio 30 anni.
Today I’m 30 years old.
Ho appena fatto 5km a piedi!
I just walked 3 miles!
Fate i bravi!
These are a lot of different meanings for a single verb, but you see what I meant when I wrote that they all have something in common with the idea of “completion”?
And besides, if you can’t remember them all, just say fare every time you’d say “to make” and you’ll be fine.
However, there are some cases in which this verb follows a different logic. Fare can also mean:
- to imitate something/someone;
- to say something.
Oh, mi fa così ridere quando fa Lino Banfi!
Oh, he makes me laugh so much when he makes his impression of Lino Banfi!
In these cases, the verb fare evokes the idea of replicating something, but not being quite the same.
That’s why, when used instead of dire (“to say“), it kind of implies that the subject is speaking feebly.
“Non… non è che io sia spaventato”, fece Daniele.
“It’s… it’s not like I’m scared”, said Daniele feebly.
Now, get ready for the second part.
… as an intransitive verb
When it is used as an intransitive verb, the various meanings of fare are mostly linked to the idea of “being good for X”, “being fit for Y”, “having a role in Z”.
Questo lavoro non fa per me!
This job is not good for me!
Faccio il buttafuori fin da quando Sara mi ha lasciato.
I’ve been working as a bouncer since Sara left me.
You can make it!
In other cases, you can pair fare with the preposition “a” and a complement to turn it into another verb:
- fare a pugni = lottare (to fight);
- fare a gara = gareggiare (to compete);
- fare a fette = affettare (to cut);
- fare a meno = evitare/rinunciare (to do without);
Finally, fare can also be used in its impersonal form to talk about the weather.
Oggi fa caldo, non è vero?
It’s hot today, isn’t it?
Andiamo, si sta facendo buio.
Let’s go, it’s becoming dark in here.
… and in fixed expressions
Last but not least, fare is featured in many Italian idiomatic expressions. The logic is the same as you’ve seen above: you pair it with a complementary word, and it changes its meaning.
The most common idiomatic expressions with fare are:
- fare mente locale = to wrap your head around something;
- fare atmosfera = to set the mood;
- fare finta= to pretend;
- fare caso = to notice;
- fare fronte = to face;
- fare fuoco = to shoot;
- fare fuori = to kill;
- fare onore = to do justice;
- fare la barba = to shave;
- fare la legna = to fetch wood;
Non fare finta di non saperlo!
Don’t pretend you don’t know it!
Nella vita bisogna far fronte a molte sfide.
You have to face many challenges in life.
You can also turn fare into its pronominal forms (farmi, farti, farsi, farci, farvi) to give it 3 more meanings:
- to process something, like in “farsi un’idea” (= to get a general sense of a specific context);
- to eat or consume something with passion, like in “farsi un panino” (to eat a sandwich) or “farsi una sigaretta” (to have a cigarette);
- to form a relationship, like in “farsi un amico” (to make a new friend). Be careful, this form can also be used as slang for “to have sex with“, so always pay attention to the context.
Dammi solo il tempo di farmi un’idea della situazione e ti dirò che ne penso.
Just give me time to process the situation and I’ll tell you what I think about it.
Ieri per cena mi sono fatto una bella peperonata.
Yesterday I had a nice peperonata for dinner.
Ora se ne è andata, si è fatta dei nuovi amici, e noi la vedremo sempre di meno.
Now she’s gone, she found new friends, and we’re going to see her less and less.
Ti sei fatto Francesca?! Ma sei fuori di testa?!
You had sex with Francesca?! Are you out of your mind?!
Finally, you can turn fare into farla (“to make it“) and form a new series of idiomatic expressions:
- farla a qualcuno = to trick someone;
- farla franca = to get away with something;
- farla grossa = to make a mess, in the sense of making a big mistake;
- farla lunga = to beat about the bush;
- farla breve / farla corta = to make it short;
- farla semplice = to make it simple;
- farla finita / farla finita con = to stop / to cut it with something. It can also mean: “to commit suicide”.
Stavolta glie l’ho proprio fatta a Franco. Non mi scoprirà mai!
This time I really got one over on Franco. He’ll never find me out!
Sono sicuro che la farai franca anche stavolta.
I’m sure you’ll get away with it again.
Facciamola finita con queste scemenze!
Cut this nonsense!
Ce l’hai fatta! You did it!
That’s it. Now you know the meaning of fare. And I mean every meaning. This was a very long list, so don’t worry if you need some time to interiorize it.
However, I hope I could make you understand why this verb is used in so many ways.
Once you get it, translating fare to English and using it in everyday conversations becomes much more intuitive than you’d think.
Of course, the daily practice has a huge part in how fast you interiorize words, verbs, and grammatical structures.
The best thing to do would be to take at least a few minutes every day to speak Italian. But that’s not always possible, especially now that we’re living in a closed world.
Another useful thing you might do is to watch Italian series in their original language and repeat what the characters say.
And if that is still too difficult for you, we have a series of audio lessons designed to help you learn Italian through repetition you might find interesting.
Anyway, I think we’re done for today. Keep checking this blog to improve your knowledge of Italian for free.
If you can’t understand something or need some further explanation, just write it in the comments.
We’ll message you back as soon as possible. Ci vediamo presto!
Learn more about Italian Phrasal Verbs.
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