When my daughter played with her friends in our house, they used an IKEA laundry hamper and a few blankets to build a "pretend pirate cave", as they mentioned.

So far as I know 'pretend' is a verb. But in this case, sounds to me it was used as an adjective. Is that a legitimate usage?


  • 2
    It is a very common colloquial use, particularly among children and those who interact with children. It should not be emulated in formal writing except for ironic effect. Apr 26, 2017 at 17:23
  • One of the interesting things about English is that because it's so weakly inflected, it's easy to use words as other parts of speech - to use a verb like an adjective, or a noun like a verb, or a verb like a noun, etc. - and this is a very good example of that.
    – stangdon
    Apr 26, 2017 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


You are right about pretend being a verb but it can also act as an adjective (informal) like in 'pretend pirate cave'. When such verbs act as adjectives they are called 'attributive verbs', as they modify the noun.


Yes. "Pretend friends" is a very common way to describe a child's imaginary playmates ("imaginary" is another way, of course).

But be cautious, "pretend friend" can also mean "false friend", depending on how said.

  • Please let me know, if you don't mind, when you say false friend, you mean in the grammatical sense, or in real life? Apr 26, 2017 at 17:34
  • Oh, sorry, Lucian, I should have thought of that: real life, someone pretending to be a friend who isn't.
    – MMacD
    Apr 26, 2017 at 17:41
  • @LucianSava In that case, it would probably be false friends because it is referred to two words in two different language.
    – apaderno
    Apr 26, 2017 at 20:45

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