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fake

1 [transitive] fake something to make something false appear to be real, especially in order to cheat somebody

She faked her mother's signature on the document.

He arranged the accident in order to fake his own death.

2[transitive, intransitive] fake (something) to pretend to have a particular feeling, illness, etc.

She's not really sick—she's just faking it.

He faked a yawn.

Your child is pretending to eat something.

Is it idiomatic to say "are you faking eating something?" because your child may not understand the formal verb "pretend" ?

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    I wouldn't say that pretend was formal. In my experience it's the usual word used of, and by, children when playing imaginative games - 'Let's pretend we're pirates' and so on. – Kate Bunting May 30 '20 at 7:40
  • You need to clarify your question. The specific phrase are faking eating something is an unusual construction. (It would be more natural as are you faking the eating of something.) But are you pretending eating something is even more unnatural. However, the reason they're unusual (or wrong) is not because of the specific verb, but because of the construction used. In short, if you want to focus on fake versus pretend, you should use a phrase that focuses only on those specific words, and which doesn't have unusual syntax. – Jason Bassford May 30 '20 at 15:43
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Apparently it is, here are a few usage instances:

From: Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg

It was easy enough to fake eating when the only light was that of the ceremonial fire

From Performing Chekhov By David Allen

There's a big difference between fake eating and really eating, and I've never seen anyone fake eating convincingly.

From Saying 'Yes!' to the Boss: Having Her Boss's Baby / Business or Pleasure .. By Susan Mallery, Julie Hogan, Shirley Rogers

She couldn't imagine ever eating again, what with the nerves dancing around in her stomach, but she could probably fake eating if she had to.

From: Screen acting: how to succeed in motion pictures and television, by Brian Adams

Should you be told to 'save the food' during rehearsal of an eating scene, fake eating until the scene is actually shot.

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  • So, actors fake eating, don't they? – Tom May 30 '20 at 6:17
  • Yes, I guess they do. – user29952 May 30 '20 at 7:18
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Since definition #2 that you quoted does mean "to pretend" then using "fake" to mean "to pretend" would not be idiomatic. You are stating exactly what you mean.

"Are you faking (something)?" = "Are you pretending (to do something)?"

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