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How to say “to pretend”: Italian grammar lesson 168

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Pretendere vs “to pretend”

If you want to learn how to say “to pretend” in Italian, you’ve come to the right place!

First of all, however, we must make sure you are aware of one very important thing: the Italian verb pretendere (to demand / presume / expect) is a false friendwhich means it looks and sounds like the verb “pretend” in English, but its meaning has nothing to do with it!

Here are some examples of how you can use pretendere:

Pretendere 300 euro per una giornata di lavoro è esagerato.

To demand (want) 300 euros for a day’s work is too much.

Non pretendere troppo da lui.

Do not expect too much from him.

So remember: pretendere does NOT mean “to pretend”, so do not use it with that meaning in Italian, ever!

Now, we can get started.

How to say “pretend” in Italian

to pretend Italian

So if you are speaking Italian and want to translate the verb “to pretend”, you can use the verb fingere.

Here’s the conjugation of fingere. 

io fingo
tu fingi
lui / lei finge
noi fingiamo
voi fingete
loro fingono

The past participle of fingere is finto. This will help you form the compound tenses with this verb.

To describe what “we are pretending” we use the preposition di after the verb fingere, followed by a verb in the infinitive.

FINGERE DI + INFINITIVE

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Loro fingono di essere stranieri, ma sono italiani.

They pretend to be foreigners, but they are Italian.

Ho finto di avere mal di testa e sono tornata a casa.

I pretended I had a headache and I came home.

Ha finto di non vedermi, non ci posso credere!

He pretended he didn’t see me, I can’t believe it!

Fare finta di…

fingere to pretend

However, here are some good news! If you do not remember how to conjugate fingere, or just want to sound a bit more informal and colloquial, you can use the construction:

FARE FINTA DI + INFINITIVE

If you use fare finta di which has the same exact meaning of fingere (to pretend), you will only need to know the conjugation of the verb fare (to do/make), and you will really sound like a native.

In fact, this construction is much more common in spoken language than fingere di…

Non fare finta di dormire, lo so che sei sveglio.

Do not pretend you’re asleep, I know you’re awake.

I bambini fanno spesso finta di non capire.

Children often pretend they don’t understand.

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Mio padre dice che è sordo, ma secondo me fa solo finta di non sentire.

My dad says he’s deaf, but I think he just pretends not to hear.

Fare finta di niente

far finta di niente

Usually, we follow the construction fare finta di + infinitive. However, there is a set expression in Italian that is a bit of an exception:

fare finta di niente 

This means “to pretend nothing happened/is happening“, and can also be found with the word nulla. 

far finta di nulla

In this case, fingere and fare finta di are not interchangeable, this expression only exists with fare finta di

Let’s have a look at some examples:

Luca gli ha dato un calcio, ma lui ha fatto finta di niente.

Luca kicked him but he pretended nothing happened.

Stiamo preparando una festa a sorpresa per Giovanni. Se lo vedi, fai finta di niente.

We’re preparing a surprise party for Giovanni. If you see him, pretend like nothing is happening.

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