Finto, the word for fake in Italian, is the past participle of the verb fingere (to pretend). The verb comes from the Latin of the same spelling.
Because it is an adjective, the final letter changes depending on whether the subject is masculine, feminine or plural:
- finto = masculine, singular
- finta = feminine, singular
- finti = masculine, plural
- finte = feminine, plural
When talking about things, actions or events, finto can refer to anything that is artificial (e.g. denti finti = false teeth) or simulated (battaglia finta = feigned battle).
Preferisco i fiori veri ai fiori finti.
I prefer real flowers to fake flowers.
The position of finto relative to the noun can cause a subtle change in its meaning. For example, if you call a man un uomo finto or a woman una donna finta with the adjective after the noun, the implication is that he or she is insincere or hides his or her true thoughts and feelings. Another example is amico finto (false friend).
By placing the adjective before the noun (finto uomo / finta donna) however, you are suggesting that the person in question pretends to be what he or she is not so as to deceive others or to take advantage of them. Another good example is un finto dottore (a phoney doctor).
Related to finto is the noun finta which means pretence. You’ll frequently see it used in the expression fare finta which is just another way of saying fingere. In sports, finta means feint.
Il bambino ha fatto finta di stare male.
The boy pretended to be sick.
Finto, when used as a noun, is also what you’d call a phoney, imposter or fraud in Italian.
A great expression in Italian is fare il finto tonto, with tonto meaning stupid person. It means to play dumb.
Dai, non fare il finto tonto!
Come on, don’t play dumb.
Finto vs Falso
A synonym of finto is falso, which means false. Whereas finto is used for anything that is artificial or simulated, falso is used for anything that is the opposite of true, or that is mistaken for truth.
A good example is fake news, which translates to notizia falsa / notizie false rather than notizia finta, because the news is not artificial, it exists, but it’s reporting something false.
Another example is a fake painting (dipinto falso). Here as well, the fake painting exists, it is real, but it was made with the purpose of misleading people into thinking it is authentic. In this case, falso can also be used as a noun.
Questo dipinto di Picasso è un falso.
This Picasso painting is a fake.
Going back to earlier examples we saw with finto, you can also say amico falso or uomo falso to say that a person is not honest or sincere.