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verb play pronunciation in British 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 children were playing football in the park.
    Shall we play cards or chess?
    He played well, though his team lost.
    play for: He played for AC Milan before he transferred to Arsenal.
    Synonyms and related words
    Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      [intransitive/transitive] to compete against someone in a sport or game
      She plays the winner of tomorrow’s match.
      Bayern Munich will play Real Madrid tomorrow evening.
      play against: England will be playing against Brazil in the next round.
    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 defence.
    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 flat above.
  3. 3
    [transitive] theatre, cinema to have a particular part in a play or film
    She played Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.
    The role of the mother was played by one of Australia’s finest actresses.
    Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      [intransitive] to act in a particular play
      I was asked to play in a new version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
      Synonyms and related words
    2. b.
      [intransitive] if a play or film is playing somewhere, it is being performed or shown there
      What’s playing at the local cinema?
  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 out playing in the garden.
    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 children playing with a ball in the street.
    Synonyms and related words
    1. a.
      [transitive] to pretend to be someone else while playing
      Let’s play doctors and nurses.
      Synonyms and related words
  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.
    Synonyms and related words

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