I would like to know how a native speaker would say that someone tries to smile, however hard it may be for this person to do so (because he is embarrassed, or because he simply is reluctant to smile at something which he does not find particularly funny). It seems that "he endeavoured to smile" is not quite right (only five results on Google Books, only four with the American spelling)... What could one say, then, to express such a thing, insisting on the effort which the person has to make to smile?

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    I tried to google "forced a smile", it seems to be in use, might come handy. P.S. It's even in a dictionary: "to force a smile/laugh" Nov 24, 2015 at 16:56
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    Yes, that's exactly what I was looking for! Many thanks to all of you. Nov 24, 2015 at 17:03
  • Also "tried" or "struggled".
    – mkennedy
    Nov 24, 2015 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


I think you've picked the perfect word for what you're trying to express.

Here's a definition that matches this usage fairly well, from the Oxford Dictionaries:

Earnest and industrious effort, especially when sustained over a period of time

You could say "struggled", but that might imply that he's not succeeding.

You could say that he "forced a smile". I think that implies the smile looks a bit fake, and probably didn't last very long. If they kept up a smile over the course of a dinner, that would be "endeavoring", if they gave a quick smile when greeting someone, that might be "forcing" it.

Just because a specific phrase doesn't come up in a search doesn't mean it's incorrect, but of course it doesn't hurt to check.

  • Thank you very much! I think that in my case 'force' would be even better for it doesn't seem to last much. Nov 24, 2015 at 17:01

You could also use 'Feign' to smile. To 'feign' is similar to 'fake' - they do not really mean it, and may do it in times of embarrassment, or at a joke he does not really find funny.

Hope this helps!

  • +1, That could work, although I don't think 'feign' implies the same kind of genuine attempt that is implied by "tries to smile, however hard it may be".
    – DCShannon
    Nov 24, 2015 at 17:04

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