Pattern V/Adj-은/는 척하다: To Pretend To V/A

Verb/Adjective (V/A)-은/는 척하다 is commonly used in spoken and written Korean to express "to pretend to (V/Adj)." It can also be translated at "to make it look like (V/Adj)" in more complex sentences (see examples below). 

The pattern is written differently depending on whether the word in front of the pattern is a verb or an adjective:

  • For verbs, present tense: V-는 척하다 regardless of the 받침 of the verb, using common conjugation rules. E.g., 모르다 → 모르는 척하다, 놀다 → 노는 척하다, 읽다 → 읽는 척하다, 넣다→ 넣는 척하다. 
  • For verbs, past tense: V-ㄴ/은 척하다. E.g., 모르다 →  모른 척하다, 놀다 →  논 척하다, 읽다 → 읽은 척하다, 넣다 →  넣은 척하다. See Note 3 for a usage note.
  • For adjectives: A-ㄴ/은 척하다. E.g., 똑똑하다 → 똑똑한 척하다, 이쁘다 → 이쁜 척하다.



(모르다) 저는 전 여자친구를 모르는 척했어요. I pretended I didn't know my ex-girlfriend.
(놀다) 저는 친구들에게 어젯밤 노는 척(을) 했지만 시험 공부를 열심히 했어요. I pretended to my friends I was having fun last night but I was studying hard for my exam. 
(읽다) 그는 핸드폰을 쓰고 있었지만 책을 읽는 척했어요. He was using his phone but made it look like (=pretended) he was reading a book.Contrast with 그는 핸드폰을 썼지만 책을 읽은 척했어요. He used his phone but pretended he read a book. 
(넣다)  엄마가 볶음밥에 야채를 안 넣는 척했지만 양파를 많이 넣었어요. The mom pretended she did not put any vegetables in the fried rice but she put a lot of onions. Contrast with 엄마가 볶음밥에 야채를 안 넣는 것처럼 했지만 양파를 많이 넣었어요. The mom made it look like she did not put any vegetables in the fried rice but she put a lot of onions. The first sentence has a more negative connotation than the second one.


(똑똑하다) 나는 시험을 보기 전에 똑똑한 척했는데 시험이 완전 망했어 (반말). I pretended I was smart before taking the exam but I completely failed it.
(이쁘다) 그녀는 매일 가면을 써서 이쁜 척해요. That girl wears a mask every day but pretends she is pretty. 

Example Dialogue

빅터: 준형아, 잘 생긴 척하지마! 너 정말 못생겼어!

준형: 야! 너 왜그래? 너 항상 똑똑한 척하잖아! 근데 왜 대학교에서 학사경고 받았냐?

빅터: 다른 사람들이 쓴 논문을 내가 쓴 척했단 말이야! 

준형: 아이고! 그렇게 잘난 척하더니!


  1. Some Koreans will add 을 between 척 and 하다 to slightly emphasize the action of "pretending" over the pretended action; e.g., 저는 어젯밤 노는 척을 했지만 시험 공부를 열심히 했어요. 
  2. 척하다 is always more negative than 것처럼 하다; 척하다 has the underlying meaning of "fooling somebody into believing" whereas 것처럼 하다 is "make believe" without a necessary foul intent.
  3. When the verb in front of 척하다 is in past tense, e.g., 쓴 척하다, it indicates that the action communicated by the verb happened before the action of "pretending." When the verb in front of 척하다 is in present tense, e.g., 쓰는 척하다, it indicates that the action communicated by the verb happened at the same time as the action of "pretending." Contrast "내가 편지를 쓴 척했어요" with "내가 편지를 쓰는 척했어요":
    1. 내가 편지를 쓴 척했어요: I pretended I had written a letter. For example, when my friends called me, I said I was done writing the letter but I hadn't even started. OR when my friends called me, I said I wrote the letter I had in my hands but actually somebody else had written it.
    2. 내가 편지를 쓰는 척했어요: I pretended I was writing a letter. For example, when my friends called me, I pretended I was writing a letter while they were calling, but really I was just watching a movie.
    3. 내가 편지를 쓴 척해요. I pretend I wrote a letter but actually somebody else wrote it.
    4. 내가 편지를 쓰는 척해요. I pretend I am writing a letter. For example, I am doing crosswords right now but I am pretending I am writing a letter.
    5. See [답변]-는/-ㄴ 척하다→[고침] (KOR) for more information.
  4. 척하다 can be replaced by the more bookish version 체하다 with no difference in meaning.