In this lesson, we look at how to say “to pretend” to do something in Korean. The key words that you need to know are 척 [cheok] and 체 [che]. They are a little bit different in usage, but they can be basically used in the following form.
Verb stem + -(으/느)ㄴ 척 하다
Verb stem + -(으/느)ㄴ 체 하다
In the structures above, both 체 and 척 have the meaning of “the act of pretending” or “acting as if”. Therefore the part before 척/체, which is -(으/느)ㄴ has the role of changing a verb into the adjective form, and the verb 하다 means “to do”.
1. -(으/ㄴ)ㄴ = adjective ending
2. 척/체 = the act of pretending
3. 하다 = to do
→ -(으/느)ㄴ 척/체 하다
1. 알다 = to know
→ 아는 척 하다 = to pretend to know
→ 아는 체 하다 = to pretend to know
** Here, 알다 is a ㄹ irregular verb so ㄹ drops.
2. 자다 = to sleep
→ 자는 척 하다 = to pretend to sleep
→ 자는 체 하다 = to pretend to sleep
3. 예쁘다 = to be pretty
→ 예쁜 척 하다 = to pretend to be pretty, to act as if one was pretty
→ 예쁜 체 하다 = to pretend to be pretty, to act as if one was pretty
You can use -(으/느)ㄴ 척/체 하다 with past tense and present progressive too.
1. 알다 → 알고 있다 (present progressive)
→ 알고 있는 척/체 하다 = to pretend to be aware of something
2. 자다 → 자고 있다 (present progressive)
→ 자고 있는 척/체 하다 = to pretend to be sleeping/asleep
3. 하다 → 한 (past tense adjective form)
→ 한 척/체 하다 = to pretend to have done something
4. 먹다 → 먹은 (past tense adjective form)
→ 먹은 척/체 하다 = to pretend to have eaten something
** You can’t use -(으/느)ㄴ 척/체 하다 with future tense. In that case you need to different structures, such as -(으)ㄹ 것처럼 행동하다, etc.
Difference between 척 and 체
척 and 체 are almost the same and almost always interchangeable, but only 척 can be followed by verbs other than 하다, which is usually 행동하다 (to behave) or 이야기하다 (to talk). You can also use the part “-(으/느)ㄴ 척” (without finishing with sentence with 하다) as a clause.
모르는 척, 조용히 나갔어요.
= (While) Pretending as if they didn’t know, they went out quietly.
Sometimes, 척 and 체 will be followed by verbs that are not 하다, but even in those cases, those verbs are mostly “related” to the verb 하다.
For example, when you want to say “Stop pretending you know.” you can say 아는 척 하지 마세요 but also 아는 척 그만하세요. Here, 그만하다 means to stop, but it basically comes from 하다.
1. 모르는 척 하지 말고 빨리 말해 줘요.
[mo-reu-neun cheok ha-ji mal-go ppal-li mal-hae jwo-yo.]
= Please don’t pretend you don’t know and tell me quickly.
2. 자는 척 그만하고 일어나요.
[ja-neun cheok geu-man-ha-go i-reo-na-yo.]
= Stop pretending to be asleep and get up.
3. 술 마신 척 하지 마세요.
[sul ma-sin cheok ha-ji ma-se-yo.]
= Don’t pretend that you drank.
4. 그 사람은 예쁜 척을 너무 많이 해요.
[geu sa-ra-meun yeo-ppeun cheo-geul neo-mu ma-ni hae-yo.]
= She behaves (too much) as if she’s pretty.
5. 아는 척 하지 마세요.
[a-neun cheok ha-ji ma-se-yo.]
= Don’t pretend to know.
= Don’t be a know-it-all.