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play

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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 for this sense of play
    Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
    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.

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
    2. b.
      [transitive] to use a particular person in your team

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

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
    3. c.
      [intransitive/transitive] to have a particular position in a sports team

      She plays in defence.

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
    4. d.
      [transitive] to hit or kick a ball

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

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
  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 for this sense of play
    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 for this sense of play
    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.

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

      Let's play doctors and nurses.

      Synonyms and related words for this sense of play
  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 for this sense of play

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