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verb play pronunciation in American English /pleɪ/ 
Word Forms
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present tense
I/you/we/theyplay
he/she/itplays
present participleplaying
past tenseplayed
past participleplayed
  1. 1
    [intransitive/transitive] to take part in a sport or game

    The girls are out playing tennis.

    He played well, though his team lost.

    play for:

    He played for the Yankees before he was traded to Milwaukee.

    Do you want to play cards?

    1. a.
      [intransitive/transitive] to compete against someone in a sport or game

      She plays the winner of tomorrow's match.

      Chicago plays Los Angeles tonight at the stadium.

      play against:

      The Bears are playing against the Niners tonight.

    2. b.
      [transitive] to use a particular person in your team

      The coach has to decide today whether or not to play him.

    3. c.
      [intransitive/transitive] to have a particular position in a sports team

      She plays in defense.

    4. d.
      [transitive] to hit or kick a ball

      The ball was going out so he was right not to play it.

  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] music to perform music, or to use an instrument to make music

    He played several organ pieces by Bach.

    Gloria plays the violin in the London Philharmonic.

    The orchestra played beautifully tonight.

    1. a.
      to make something such as a radio, CD, etc. start to produce sounds, or to be made to do this

      They played the CD at full volume.

      A tape was played in court in which he confessed to the crime.

      I could hear a radio playing in the apartment above.

  3. 3
    [transitive] theater, cinema to have a particular part in a play or movie

    She played Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

    The role of the mother was played by one of Australia's finest actresses.

    1. a.
      [intransitive] if a play or movie is playing somewhere, it is being performed or shown there

      What's playing at the local movie theater?

    2. b.
      [intransitive] to act in a particular play

      I was asked to play in a new version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

  4. 4
    [intransitive/transitive] if children play or play something, they do things that they enjoy, for example using toys and taking part in games

    The children were playing in the backyard.

    Molly and Lilly were playing happily together.

    play by yourself (=when you are alone):

    Tom's very good at playing by himself.

    play with:

    She watched some kids playing with a ball in the street.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to pretend to be someone else while playing

      My little girl likes to play mommy with her doll.

  5. 5
    [intransitive] mainly literary if something such as light plays somewhere, it moves quickly over a surface, appearing in different places for a very short time

    Moonlight played on the surface of the lake.

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