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PLAY - GO - DO: when to use these verbs

The use of 'play, 'go' and 'do' for sports and leisure activities.

When speaking about sports and leisure activities, the verbs play, go and do are used as shown in the table below.

Verb Explanation Sport/Activity
PLAY Sports with teams, rules and competitions or tournaments.
  • Two people can play a game of tennis.
  • You need a team to play football.
  • Dad's gone to play golf.
  • Alex often plays squash with a colleague after work.
  • I used to play handball at school.
 Chess, Darts
GO The name of the activity is the gerund form of the verb (-ing).
  • To camp  →  go camping
    We often go camping in the summer.
  • To swim  →  go swimming
    Many children like to go swimming.
  • My dad likes to go fishing at the weekend.
  • During the summer we often go sailing.
DO All other recreational activities.
  • All classes do gymnastics at school.
  • Sophie does yoga with a group of friends.
  • No wonder he's fit. He does gymnastics every day.
  • We all need to do more exercise.
  • Tania is going to give up running and do aerobics!

Unlike other activities ending in -ing, we use 'do' with boxing, body-building and weight-lifting.

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