Here's the sentence: He's pretending that he didn't know anything. He is _____.

What is the adjective for someone who pretends? Pretender is a noun. Is it pretentious? But the meaning of it is:

pretentious /pri-ˈten(t)-shəs/


1: characterized by pretension: such as

  • making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing)

    the pretentious fraud who assumes a love of culture that is alien to him — Richard Watts

  • expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature

    pretentious language pretentious houses

2 : making demands on one's skill, ability, or means : ambitious

the pretentious daring of the Green Mountain Boys in crossing the lake — Amer. Guide Series: Vt.

pretentiously adverb

pretentiousness noun

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pretentious

  • There is possibly an entry in OED licensing 'pretentious' as 'involved in an act / stance of pretence', but even if this were the case, the other senses would so eclipse this that it would be best avoided. I'd prefer a work-around to anything I've thought of so far. Jun 23, 2017 at 14:59

3 Answers 3


Feign [feyn]/ verb (used with object)

  1. to represent fictitiously; put on an appearance of: to feign sickness.

  2. to invent fictitiously or deceptively, as a story or an excuse.

  3. to imitate deceptively: to feign another's voice.

verb (used without object)

  1. to make believe; pretend:

Source: Dictionary.com

He's pretending that he didn't know anything. He is feigning ignorance.


The answer is pretending. It follows from the rest of the sentence whether this is a verb or an adjective. The OED has a separate entry for this:

pretending, adj.

That pretends (in various senses); pretentious. Also, of a thing or action: imitative, imaginary; involving pretence or imitation. [...]

1681 W. Temple Mem. iii, in Wks. (1731) I. 334: The pretending Knowers among them,..pretended now to know nothing of it.

So if your whole sentence is "he is pretending", it would be regarded a verb, whereas if you say "the pretending dog faked being wounded", it would be used as an adjective.


It's still pretend, though it tends to colour the sentence with the 'make-believe' sense of pretend, as opposed to the 'hoax' sense.

pretend adjective (informal) Not really what it is represented as being; imaginary. ‘You just become someone walking around in freedom, no longer a pretend celebrity with a wallet to be taxed.’ – ODO

  • 1
    This is the sentence: He's pretending that he didn't know anything. He is _____.
    – Fawkes
    Jun 23, 2017 at 8:34
  • 1
    @Fawkes You should have put that in your question, and I should have waited for you to do so. Anyway, you might say that he is "a pretend ignoramus".
    – Lawrence
    Jun 23, 2017 at 8:38
  • @Lawrence I think that this usage makes it part of a compound statement, where 'pretend' is not an adjective to the subject of the sentence, but part of the predicate. Jun 23, 2017 at 10:10
  • @HenryJekyll1886 The technicalities of linguistics isn't my strong suit, but I think the case is stronger for pretend to be a straight-out adjective in my example, as opposed to a noun adjunct or similar, such as with chicken in "chicken soup".
    – Lawrence
    Jun 23, 2017 at 10:39

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