第114課: The Verbs for “To Play”
It may come as a surprise to you that there are multiple ways to say “to play” in Japanese.
Although 遊ぶ is translated as “to play,” it is most synonymous with “to have fun.” It is still possible, though, to describe how you are having fun (Ex. 1). Even if you are playing a sport (Ex. 2), you can still state that that is how you are playing even though the exact verb playing is different (see section on する・やる below).
The children are playing with toys in the playground at the park during the day.
The dog I have is outside playing and getting wet in the rain.
It looks like my son is having fun playing baseball with friends after school.
Study hard, play hard.
Hey, let’s go have fun!
Another nuance that 遊ぶ may have is that the person is doing nothing with no particular job to do, and this can be extended to inanimate objects.
That unemployed man was loitering around the train station doing nothing.
My senpai was goofing off on the Internet during work.
The machines are lying idle due to a shortage of raw materials.
遊ぶ can also mean “to mess about with /give oneself up to (gambling, drinking, etc.). The Sino-Japanese version of this meaning is 遊興する, which is a more fancy way of referring to a “pleasure spree.”
I did it out of a desire for money to splurge. I don’t think I’m doing anything bad, and I also don’t regret (my actions).
(We) suspend the employment of staff members who partake in leisure during time off due to illness or during leave taken because of an illness, or who fail to receive treatment at a hospital, or who are deemed to not be devoting themselves to their recuperation.
In the pattern ～に遊ぶ, it can mean “to go to (for pleasure/study).”
Mariko has gone to Paris for studying painting and is devoting herself to her training.
The verb 戯れる means “to play” as in “to frolic/amuse oneself.” 戯れる may also be heard alternatively as じゃれる or ざれる, also translatable as “to play around.” ～に戯れる means “to flirt” and is synonymous with the more common ～といちゃつく. Note that 遊ぶ, despite what many learners assume, is not taken sexually.
A kitten is frolicking on the lawn with the fluttering butterflies.
I made eye contact with this middle-aged man flirting with foreign, female tourists, and it was creepy.
Cats will play-bite when playing with each other.
Word Note: じゃれ合う is commonly used to refer to animals/pets playing with each other.
ふざける is a very common verb and can be understood as “to play a prank/mess around/joke around.”
Knock it off!
The only way I can see it is that it’s a bunch of BS-ing brats idling by doing it partially for the kick of it.
When the Kanji 遊 and 戯 are combined, you get the word 遊戯. This may be immediately recognizable from the infamous anime and card game 遊戯王, but the word 遊戯 is generally used to refer to “play/game” and is the Sino-Japanese equivalent of 遊び.
Shiritori is a word play game.
It’s time for play (and dance) practice!
Culture Note: This is a part of the day performed at elementary schools in Japan.
Playing sports or games of any sort is expressed with either する or やる. The latter option is considered more casual, but that does not mean it can’t be used in polite speech. More so than anything, it adds a friendly touch to the conversation. やる may also be seen in the written language where it emphasizes how active the person is.
I want to play Pokemon Scarlet Version to celebrate my birthday!
The young women are playing karuta (traditional playing cards) in front of a folding screen.
Given how these verbs can be used to express “playing” various games (ゲーム), video-games (ビデオゲーム), and sports (スポーツ), here is a list of some of the most important ones.
|相撲||Sumo wrestling||格闘技||Martial arts|
※During WWII, Japanese names were coined for American sports to avoid English loanwords as much as possible. Up until that time, even baseball could frequently be heard as ベースボール. After the war, however, 野球 and 卓球 were the only Sino-Japanese terms that stuck around. However, the names for soccer (蹴球) and basketball (籠球), respectively, can occasionally be seen in the name of their respective sports clubs to add a fancy flair.
※蹴球 may refer to either soccer or rugby. To clarify, ラ式蹴球 (rugby) and 米式蹴球 (soccer) were coined to distinguish them, but these terms also became moribund once WWII was over.
Wanna try playing soccer?
Grammar Note: In casual speech, を is frequently dropped, but it is especially dropped with “sport + する” as the words are being reanalyzed as verb-like nouns.
There is a rapid increase in the number of women who play golf.
Are people who play baseball just all stupid?
I can’t play tennis every day, but I am striving to increase my practice rounds as much as possible.
I’ve started to do scuba diving.
Many of the idiomatic ways “to do” is used in English carry over to やる. For instance, when seen written as 殺る, it is “to do” as in “to do the dead = to kill.” When seen as ヤる, it is almost always the sexual meaning of “to do.”
You killed Yuta, didn’t you!
You did it with (my) sis, didn’t you!
To play a match of a sport/contest is expressed with 試合をする.
Winning without playing the match is called “winning by default.”
We played five matches of soccer and won three of them.
To Play an Instrument
Playing instruments (楽器) is also not so straight forward from the perspective of an English speaker, but the verbs assigned to instruments are all based on the physical action that accompanies playing them.
|String Instrument |
|ピアノ (piano)・三味線 (shamisen)・琴 (koto)・バイオリン (violin)||弾く|
|Wind Instrument |
|笛 (flute)・尺八 (shakuhachi)・喇叭 (trumpet)||吹く|
|Percussion Instrument |
|ドラム (drums)・太鼓 (Japanese drums)・木琴 (xylophone)||叩く|
To any foreigner who can play the shamisen, please leave a response.
A shepherd is playing the flute.
Playing the Japanese drums is actually difficult.
I want to fulfill my dream of being able to play the drums.
The people who can play the piano are all pretty smart, huh?
When performing in the sense of instruments or a dance, the verb 演奏する may be used. No distinctions are made for this verb, but the performance is treated as a formal occasion.
I performed on the cello, which I had been practiced for a while.
Whether you are playing a song (曲) on your phone, an old-fashioned record レコード, playing a CD or a DVD, etc., the verb かける is used.
34. Hey Siri、音楽をかけてください。
Hey Siri, play music.
I’ll put on a new CD for you.
My child frequently starts balling not even 10 minutes into putting on his favorite DVD in the car.
I tried playing a good-quality record with excellent recording and back condition.
Another word you may see is 再生する, which literally means that you are “regenerating/replaying” what you have chosen.
Whenever you watch the same video over and over in a day on Youtube, are (those views) counting in the view count?
The verb 演じる meaning “to play” as in “to perform (an act)” originates from the voiced サ変 form 演ず(る), which is still in use in the written language. Incidentally, the word for “play” as in “drama/theatre” is 演劇.
Doing this role after having performed that role is just……
I’m filled with so much emotion over wanting to play Juliet with all my soul.
Let’s go watch a play!
Word Note: 芝居 also translates to “play/drama,” but it may also refer to small theatres or “playing someone.”
The English word “to play” has also been borrowed into Japanese with all of its original meanings – both nominal and verbal.
Let’s play fair and square!
There shouldn’t be anyone who hasn’t ever played Pokemon before!
We turned the room next to the living room into a play room.