What's the difference between "put on a show" and "put on an act"? Are they interchangeable? They look similar in meaning to me. Is there any nuanced difference?

Examples sentences from dictionaries:

  1. They put on a show of affection for the sake of the children.
  2. Be natural. Don’t feel you have to put on an act.

The important thing to realize here is that 'put on a show/act' aren't different idioms, they are manifestations of the same phrasal verb:

From oxford:

Put on (sense 5.1) - Behave deceptively:

she doesn’t feel she has to put on an act

There is a subtle difference. 'Put on a show' is also widely used without the negative connotations, in the more literal sense of organizing something grand. See this.

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