Use Play + Noun Collocations to Describe Competitive Team Sports and Games

Play collocations for competitive sports and games

So far, we’ve looked at how to use go +ing to talk about leisure activities and how to use do + noun to describe some types of sports, exercise and physical activities.

Today, we’ll look at how to use play + noun for competitive team sports and competitive games.

As you can see, the verb play is commonly used with competitive sports, specifically those played with a ball or other similar object.

Many of these sports are team sports played with other people, while other sports involve competing alone against other players.

We can also use the verb play with competitive games, such as darts and pool.

Play is also used with board games, such as Monopoly, Clue, Life, backgammon, chess, checkers, among others.

Likewise, we use play for card games, including poker.

These games are competitive; you may play against other solo competitors, or work with a partner against another team.

It is important to remember that we use the verb play with these competitive sports.

These types of sports require training and repeated practice, but we still use the verb play to talk about the sport.

When we say, “He plays soccer professionally,” we are also describing his training and years of practice.

Native English speakers understand the effort and dedication implied by the sport even when we use the verb “play.”

In other languages, you may use the verb “practice,” but this verb is not usually used when talking about sports in English!

Make sure to use the verb play with these competitive sports in order to sound more natural in English.

Instead, you can describe a specific practice, or session dedicated to playing the sport.

For example, we say, “My son has soccer practice after school” or “I have tennis practice three times this week.”

Just like the collocations with “go” and “do,” the verb “play” changes based on our subject and desired tense.  Here are some examples:

  • She plays softball on her high school’s team.
  • They are still playing golf after four hours on the course!
  • We played ping-pong a lot when traveling in Asia.
  • I am going to play poker with my friends this weekend.
  • In many countries, people love playing soccer.
  • My brother used to play baseball when he was younger.

As a reminder, use play, NOT practice with competitive sports played with a ball and other types of competitive games!

Your Turn

In the comments below, answer the following question with one of the collocations listed above:

Which sports or games do you like to play? And as a bonus question: How long have you been playing them?

Want to use grammar more naturally? Click here to explore my other resources on using grammar structures like a native speaker.

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