How to use the verbs PLAY, DO, and GO (2021)

play – We use the verb play for games (like chess or PS3) and for sports that use a ball.
“I play baseball every Sunday afternoon.”
do – We use the verb do for sports or activities that don’t use a ball.
“My sister does gymnastics 3 times a week. She is really good!”
go – We use the verb go with sports or activities that end with ~ing.
“My friends and I love to go bowling.”

The English verbs play, do, and go can be a little confusing when we talk about sports or activities. I wrote this post after one of my students asked me about martial arts training.

My student asked me if I “played jiujitsu.” Of course, I knew what my student meant, but this is not a natural way to ask this question in English.  Jiu-Jitsu is a sport/activity that does not use a ball. In natural English, we will use the verb do with jiu-jitsu and other martial arts.

“I used to do karate,  Kung Fu, and Aikido.”
“One of my English students is in junior high school. She does Kendo.”

Here is a helpful guide explaining how to use these verbs with sports, hobbies, and activities.

When to use PLAY

We use the verb play for games (like chess, cards, or video games) and for sports that use a ball.

“I play baseball every Sunday afternoon.”  
“Will you play tennis tomorrow after work?” 
“My little brother is always playing video games.” 
“I like to play poker online.”

play at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

play poker - PLAY DO GO

What’s The Difference Between An ATHLETE And PLAYER?

When to use DO

We use the verb do for sports and activities that don’t use a ball.

“I do jiu-jitsu on Wednesdays.” 
“Cathy does gymnastics every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. She practices a lot, she wants to compete in a world championship one day.”
“Jake does woodworking in his spare time.”

do at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Do karate - PLAY DO GO

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When to use GO

We use the verb go with sports or activities that end with the letters ~ing.

“This weekend I plan to go snowboarding.” 
“My friends and I love to go bowling.”
“Let’s go shopping!”

go at Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Go bowling - PLAY DO GO

What do you like to play? What sports or activities do you like to do? Do you ever go swimming? Tell me in the comments 🙂

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