Hang on a minute! There's no verb for play?!

I’m just working on some home work for my Japanese class and I’ve been asked to write about my daily routine as part of that (Genki Chapter 3!). I started well enough, then I got to the end of the it and thought instead of saying I watch TV as in the example, I thought I’d put ‘at 7 I play video games’.

I looked over my verb tables so far and couldn’t see the word play, despite being introduced to sports like 'テニス’, there wasn’t any examples using it. I guess, based on what verbs I have I could say ‘7時にビデオゲームをします*’ but it just feels wrong to my English speaking brain.

Is there any alternative way to say this? Or do I just have to get used to the concept that ‘doing’ is equal to ‘playing’?

*する is an irregular verb that means ‘to do’ for any other newbies eventually searching for this same thing! It becomes 'します’ in present/affirmative and 'しません’ as you might expect in negative!


“Playing with toys.” → おもちゃで遊ぶ。
“Playing a sport.” → スポーツをする。

From what I know.


Yes, what he said. Also, playing a musical instrument:

  • Instruments you strum (and pianos) = 弾く
  • Instruments you blow = 吹く
  • Instruments you hit = 叩く

It’s not really that “doing” is equal to “playing” as it is that Japanese uses verbs in different ways. They don’t directly correlate with their English equivalents.


Ahh amazing! Thanks Kazzeon, that’s good to know! Now I just need to figure out if the Japanese classify video games as a toy or a sport haha :wink:


Video games are する. As are any sort of game.

遊ぶ is basically just playing around. Generally having fun.


Poor phrasing on my part Belthazar, that’s pretty much what I mean. Accepting that the verb works differently in Japanese than it does in English and remembering that change. The ‘equals’ is just for my own understanding that when I want to say playing, I should use 'する’

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I’m also working on chapter 3 at this moment and was wondering the same thing, so thank you! From all examples sentences i’ve looked up, it looks that する is used a lot. it’s definitely something to get used to because it’s very different from English/my native language!

Thank you guys.


A bit of a hijack here, but how would you interpret “To play instrument.” as in “Do you play any instruments?” The instrument is not specified.


Found it in a dictionary.

Googling suggests 演奏する.

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If you ask me I would say that in English there is no verb for ‘play’ or, if you prefer, you use the word ‘play’ for a lot of very different activities that have little in common. For example in Italian:

Play (with toys) = giocare
Play (an instrument) = suonare
Play (For films, music stored) = riprodurre

So I would say that in this respect Japanese is actually not that different from English :grin:


Thanks @d-hermit and @Belthazar I asked my husband about it a few days ago and he was being silly and I forgot about it until just now. I guess I thought it must be more complex than dictionary so I figured some of the folks would know it here. I learned my lesson though!! Check the dictionary first <3

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But I bet it feels correct to a Japanese brain.

A Japanese person studying English might be weirded out by 「ゲームを遊ぶ」 :man_shrugging:


Fun fact: in Dutch you can verbify the sport itself to say you are playing/practicing it. But you can also use the equivalent of ‘to play’ (spelen).

I play tennis: Ik tennis/ik speel tennis.

Same with games by the way.

I am playing Overwatch: Ik ben aan het Overwatchen.


ゲームを遊ぶ is fine. You can say it. Just keep in mind that it puts an emphasis on the act of doing something for enjoyment. So it might be odd to use if you were talking about e-sports or something.

And I’ve been playing Animal Crossing recently, and 遊ぶ is used in the quit menu to ask if you really want to quit or まだ遊ぶ


Huh, you learn something every day. Didn’t know that! Interesting! :smiley:


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