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Italian word of the day: 'Pretendere'

The Local Italy
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Italian word of the day: 'Pretendere'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

We promise we're not pretending about the meaning of this word.


The Italian verb pretendere is one of those words that seems designed to trip language-learners up.

It doesn't, as you'd expect, mean 'pretend', but instead can mean any of 'to claim', 'to demand', 'to expect/presume' or 'to want/aspire to'.

Un prodotto legittimo non pretende di risolvere tutti i problemi.
A legitimate product won't claim to solve all your problems.

Pretende un risarcimento di 200 euro.
He's demanding 200 euros in compensation.

Nessuno avrebbe mai preteso che fossi in grado di realizzare l'intero progetto da solo.
No one would ever have expected you to be able to complete the entire project by yourself.

Le cose si fanno sempre più difficili per i giovani che pretendono di diventare proprietari di una casa.
Things are getting more and more difficult for young people who aspire to become homeowners.

Of course, sometimes there will be an overlap between pretendere and 'pretend' - the difference is that with the latter, the verb itself tells us there's a subterfuge going on, whereas with pretendere, it can only be understood from context.

I truffatori hanno pubblicato un falso annuncio di affitto pretendendo di essere dei proprietari di un lussuoso appartamento nel centro della città.
The scammers posted a fake rental ad claiming to be the owners of a luxurious city-center apartment.

The two words have the same Latin root in praetendere, and you can see how modern-day English got from 'make a claim' to 'make a false claim' (a usage that entered the language in around the 14th century) to 'feign/affect'.

If you want a direct translation of 'to pretend', you need fingere or fare finta, which mean pretend both in the sense of 'make-believe' and 'fake'.


Le piace indossare il suo vestito e fingere di essere un medico.
She likes dressing up in her outfit and imagining she's a doctor.

Stanno fingendo di dormire.
They're pretending to be asleep.

Per tutto questo tempo ha fatto finta di essere un avvocato, pur non essendosi mai laureato.
All this time he pretended to be a lawyer despite never having graduated from university.

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