Fare is probably one of the first verbs that a student should learn in Italian, being that it means “to do” or “to make.”
- Ho fatto una torta (I made a cake).
- Un regalo fatto a mano (a handmade present).
It’s also useful to know that we use the verb fare when asking about someone’s profession. It’s less direct and does not focus on money, which is ideal if you are a housewife, a volunteer or a pensioner for example.
- Cosa fai nella vita ? (what do you do for a living?)
But, what’s cool about this verb is all the expressions, idioms and phrases that use it. Put fare with other words and it will transform into a totally new beast! Let’s see some examples. You will notice that I grouped them according to their basic form. Don’t read too much into it: it’s just an arbitrary way to break the data in to manageable chunks, to highlight the little subtleties and (hopefully) to help you remember them better.
Fare + noun:
- fare attenzione to be careful (“watch out!!”).
- fare paura: to scare.
- fare male: to hurt.
- fare un favore: to do a favor.
- fare finta: to pretend.
- fare apposta: to do something on purpose.
- fare pena: to be heartbreakingly pitiful.
- fare colpo: to create a sensation / to impress.
- fare seguito: to follow up.
- fare effetto: to take effect.
- fare niente (non fa niente): it doesn’t matter / never mind.
- fare inversione: to do a u-turn.
- fare marcia indietro: to reverse (to backpedal).
Fare + article + noun
- fare al caso giusto: to be adequate.
- fare la doccia: to take a shower.
- fare una passeggiata: to go for a walk.
- fare il pieno: to fill up, to refill.
- fare la corte: to court, to seduce.
- fare l’amore: to make love.
- fare il ponte: to take a long weekend
- fare un giro…: to take a ride in….
- faire l’occhiolino: to wink.
- fare una croce su…: to give up on something.
- fare carte false: to go through a lot of trouble for something.
- fare il possibile: to do one’s best.
- fare le valigie: literally to pack one’s bag. By extension, to leave for good.
Fare + si
Adding the pronoun si means the action is reflexive (done on oneself). When you build sentences with a pronoun, don’t forget to “conjugate” it or, in other words, make it match the subject (io mi..., tu ti…, lui si…, lei si…, noi ci…, voi vi…, loro si…).
- farsi il sangue amaro: to worry about something.
- farsi venire i capelli bianchi: to make someone go grey.
- farsi vecchio: to become old.
- farsi tagliare i capelli: to have a hair cut.
- farsi un’idea sbagliata: to fool oneself.
- farsene una ragione: to resign oneself.
On top of those examples, you can put si in front of many of the other examples in the sections above. For example, fare male (to hurt) becomes farsi male (to hurt oneself).
By the way, this article is far from a comprehensive guide. There are so many expressions, I fear it may bore you to death. Just keep in mind that if a sentence involves the word fare and also happens to be hard to understand, it might be an idiom. Just ask Reverso. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an online dictionary coupled with a search engine. It put words into context and allows you to compare real translations.
My final piece of advice is “less is more.” Keep in mind that it’s more interesting to talk to someone who uses simple but correct sentences, than to someone who strings idioms together nonstop (correctly or not!).