Sports – play, do or go?


When do we use Play; Do or Go with sports?

In the English language we can use the verbs:

  • play
  • do
  • go

with different types of sports or leisure activities.

Which verbs goes with which sport?

“Play” a sport

     We “play” team sports:

  • play football on Saturdays
  • John plays rugby
  • Helen plays basketball
  • Monica plays hockey


     But we also “play” other sports where we need an opponent:

  • Fred plays tennis.
  • Harry plays badminton.
  • Sandra plays golf.
  • Henry has been playing snooker since he was a young boy.

     and it’s used for board games and other games:

  • We always play poker on Friday nights.
  • My children love playing Trivial Pusuits.
  • I sometimes play Scrabble with my students.
  • Max plays chess every week.


  •  it is also possible to say I go to football/basketball/rugby when it means that I walk or drive etc to the place where I play football/basketball/rugby

“Go” + sport

     We use “go” with a sport when the name of the sport is a verb in the gerund form.

  • I go jogging every morning.
  • Mary goes swimming after work.
  • If the weather is good I go climbing with Gerry once a month.
  • Gerry and Diana went fishing at the weekend.
  • Fred likes going sailing.


     When you are actively doing the sport you can say:

  • John is sailing at the moment.
  • I am jogging.
  • I am riding a horse.

 “Do”  sports

     We “do” sports that are:

  • not team games
  • are Martial Arts
  • are leisure activities


  • Monica does karate.
  • Dan does judo.
  • Gillian does aerobics.
  • Gary and Alice do athletics.
  • I did gymnastics when I was younger.


     You can ask       “What sports or free time activities do you do?”

     People can answer     

  • ” I do football on Thursdays”
  • “I do swimming” etc etc

     in this sense they see football and swimming (or any other sport/activity) as activities, so it’s OK to use “do”.

 For more vocabulary go to Vocabulary Index

Go to English language and grammar exercises

8 Responses to “Sports – play, do or go?”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Dmitri says:

    Thank you for your quick response! As I can see from the examples above, if i want to spend my leisure or spare time just for enjoyment or for a change, I should say ” go swimming”. But if I have regular training, or do some sports seriously not just to spend my time, this case will imply using “do swimming”. Am I right?

  2. Dmitri says:

    Thanks a lot! Could you tell me if there is a difference in meaning between: I do swimming vs I go swimming?

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your question.
      The difference between:
      – I go swimming
      – I do swimming
      is very small.
      With “go” we are referring to the sport itself, so we could say:
      If I’m feeling bored, I often go swimming or play tennis with friends

      If we see swimming as a leisure activity, especially one where there is a course or swimming class, we would probably use “do”
      After school, I do English classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I do swimming on Mondays and Fridays. We have a really good trainer.

  3. Lyuboff says:

    Thanks a lot. Very useful