Handy Expressions and Uses of the Italian Verb Fare

Common idioms and proverbs using this rich verb

Fare un caffe!
Fare un caffe!. Kathrin Ziegler

The verb fare, which in English means to make, do, prepare, execute, carry out—say, make your bed or do your homework or make pasta—is one of the richest, most versatile verbs in the Italian language, used to express a nearly boundless array of actions, from standing in line to making friends, buying oneself a new car, taking a walk or taking a trip. And, of course, the weather.

The Latin derivation of the verb fare—from facere—weighs heavily on the verb's conjugation, making it a most irregular second-conjugation verb. In fact, fare heads up its own model and family of irregular and pesky verbs that derive from fare—a topic all of its own.

Here, though, we want to tell you about the myriad purposes of fare. They are more than curious idioms or phrases: They are staple expressions of everyday actions and sentiments—many of them creative and interesting, displaying the full color of the Italian language—that you will want to understand and use.

Idioms With Fare

Here are some of the most common expressions of actions that use fare in Italian. They are transitive and conjugate with avere:

fare il biglietto to purchase a ticket 
fare la fila/la coda to stand/wait in line
fare la spesa to go grocery shopping
fare lo shopping/le spese to go shopping
fare ginnastica/sport to exercise/do sports
fare forca/chiodo to play hookey
fare una domanda to ask a question
fare una fotografia to take a picture
fare una passeggiata to take a walk
fare un giro  to go for a ride or a stroll
fare colazione to have breakfast
fare un viaggio  to take a trip
fare il bagno/la doccia to swim or bathe/to take a shower
fare un capello in quattro  to split hairs
fare castelli in aria to daydream
fare finta to pretend
fare il possibile/di tutto to do everything possible
fare del proprio meglio to do one's best
fare amicizia to make friends
fare alla romana to split the check
fare il pieno to fill up the gas tank
fare la pipì/fare i bisogni to tinkle/go to the bathroom
fare il callo  to get used to something negative
fare la bocca to get used to something good 
fare confusione  to make noise/create confusion
fare da sé  to handle something on one's own
fare danno  to cause damage
fare festa to take the day off
fare lo stupido/il cretino to act stupidly
fare il bravo to act nicely
fare attenzione  to pay attention
fare male/fare bene to harm/do good (or act wrongly or rightly)
fare fatica to struggle 
fare tardi/presto to be late/early
fare in tempo  to manage to do something on time
fare fronte a  to face something (figuratively)
fare bella/brutta figura  to look good/bad/make a good or bad impression
fare a meno  to do without something 
fare torto a qualcuno to wrong someone 
fare a botte  to brawl
fare piacere to please 
fare schifo  to be gross or disgusting
fare colpo to impress/make a nice showing 
fare impressione to shock (negatively)
fare buon viso a cattivo gioco to smile or play along with someone's deception or bad intent

Expressions With Farsi

In these uses, fare is used in reflexive mode or otherwise intransitive mode. You conjugate with essere:

farsi la barba  to shave
farsi i capelli to cut one's hair or get one's hair done
farsi coraggio to hearten oneself/give oneself courage
farsi in là to move over
farsi in quattro to bend over backwards
farsi vivo/a/i/e to get in touch 
farsi largo to push through a crowd
farsi bello/a/i/e to primp
farsi un nome to make a name for oneself
farsi valere  to assert oneself
farsi conoscere to make oneself known
farsi notare to draw attention 
farsi il segno della croce to make the sign of the cross
farsi capire to make oneself understood 
farsi pregare to make someone beg 
farsi vento to fan oneself 
farsi desiderare to make someone wait 
farsi gli affari propri to mind one's business
farsi la macchina, la casa nuova to buy oneself something (a car, a new house)
farsi l'eroina/farsi una canna to shoot up/to smoke a joint 
farsi male to hurt oneself

Other Important Uses of Fare

Fare has some other important uses in conjunction with other verbs or acting in the place of other verbs:

Lasciare fare to let something be/leave something alone Lascia fare; dopo faccio io.  Leave it; I will take care of it later. 
Avere a che fare to have (or not) something to do with something or someone  Non ho niente a che fare con Luca.  I have nothing to do with Luca. 
Darsi da fare to work hard at something Mi do da fare ma non trovo lavoro.  I am working hard at it but I can't find a job.
Saperci fare to know how to do something well Quel ballerino ci sa fare.  That dancer knows what he's doing. 
Far fare qualcosa a qualcuno to make someone do something La mamma mi fa sempre fare le pulizie.  Mom always makes me clean. 
Fare vedere to show someone something  Mi fai vedere il tuo vestito nuovo?  Will you show me your new dress?
Fare sì che  to make it so as to make something happen La mamma ha fatto sì che non fossi a casa quando hanno portato la macchina nuova.  Mom made it so I would not be home when they delivered my new car. 
Fare (un lavoro) to have/do a profession  La Lucia fa la maestra. Lucia is a teacher. 
Fare (come bastare)  to last/to suffice Questa acqua farà per due giorni.  This water will last for two days. 
Fare (come cogliere/tagliare)  to cut or pick  La signora è andata a fare l'erba per i conigli.  The woman went to cut grass for her rabbits. 
Fare (come dire)  to say (to go, informally) Ho visto e Andrea e mi fa, "Mi presti dei soldi?" I saw Andrea on the street and he goes, "Would you loan me some money?"
Fare passare  to let someone by Fammi passare!  Let me by! 
Fare da mangiare  to cook Oggi ho fatto da mangiare. Ho fatto una minestra.  Today I cooked. I made a soup. 

The Weather: Il Tempo

The verb fare is used in many expressions relating to the weather. The weather—it, third person singular, spoken or unspoken—is the subject, "making" cold, hot, or snow.

  • Che tempo fa? How is the weather?
  • Oggi fa bello. It's beautiful today.
  • Domani fa cattivo tempo. Tomorrow it's going to be bad weather.
  • Questa settimana ha fatto caldo. It's been hot this week.
  • Qui fa sempre freddo a gennaio. It's always cold here in January.
  • In primavera fa sempre fresco. In spring, it's always cool.
  • Domani fa la neve. Tomorrow it's going to snow.

Proverbs Using Fare

Of course, because the verb fare covers so many actions, it is used in a number of proverbs or sayings about everyday life.

  • Tra il dire e il fare c'è di mezzo il mare. There is a big difference between words and actions.
  • Chi non fa non falla. Those who don't do anything don't make mistakes.
  • Chi fa da sé fa per tre. If you want something done, do it yourself.
  • Non fare agli altri ciò che non vorresti fosse fatto a te. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  • Tutto fa/tutto fa brodo. Every little bit helps.
  • Chi non sa fare non sa comandare. A bad worker is a bad master.