Go, play, or do a sport?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Arusa, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. Arusa New Member

    Hi! I'm trying to find a good explanation for my students about the use of play, go or do with sports, and I find it difficult to explain the use of do: which kind of sports are used with this verb? I know examples but I lack a general "theory". Could someone help me?
    Thanks a lot!
  2. *Cowgirl*

    *Cowgirl* Senior Member

    USA English
    Welcome to the forums:)

    I'm confused.......What exactly are you asking?

    You don't usually go a sport.

    You play basketball, soccer, fribee, football, etc...
  3. Arusa New Member

    I explained myself wrongly perhaps. I mean that you cab say I go surfing, I play basketball but I do aerobics. So my question is which sports are used with DO. I understand that PLAY is with games, team sports and competitive ones, and GO maybe with solo sports and -ing.
    I hope this is clearer now
  4. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    Generally, you use:
    go if the sport ends in '-ing'
    do if the sport is more of a physical activity, and
    play if the sport is competitive.

    I go swimming, cycling, canoeing, dancing, etc.
    I do judo, athletics, gymnastics, etc.
    I play football, handball, chess, badminton, tennis, golf, etc.

    (And these are listed in order of precedence: swimming and cycling are competitive, for example, but you still use 'go').

    Of course, sometimes there are verb forms of the sports themselves, especially those ending in '-ing': I go boxing or I box, I go skiing or I ski.
  5. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    I'm not certain of any hard and fast rules. The way I see it is this:

    The names of sports that do not describe the particular "action" of the sport (in other words, the name of the sport does is not also the verb of that sport), take "play."

    play tennis
    play soccer/football
    play basketball
    play lacrosse
    play rugby

    Note, in these sports, there is a sense of competitiveness, that at the end of the day, there will be a winner and a loser in the match and/or game.

    Sports verbs where the actual activity is the verb take "go" with the -ing (gerund) form of the verb.

    swim / go swimming
    surf / go surfing
    sail / go sailing

    I am going fishing.
    They went hunting.
    The boys like to go hiking in the mountains.

    Note, in general, these are "singular" sports, although they can be competitive, but not so much on a team level.

    In my experience, do is used more for particular recreational activities, especilly those of a singular nature, and not so much for sports.

    I do (practice) yoga.
    Mr. Smith does crossword puzzles.

    One notable exception is golf, which can use several forms.
    Mr. Jones golfs every Friday afternoon.
    My husband plays golf when the weather is nice. In fact, he is going golfing with his friends this weekend.
  6. Arusa New Member

    Thanks al ot to all! you' ve helped me very much, it gets harder to me sometimes to explain this to students, beacause you always find an exception to a rule you've made up in your mind, for axample, you say do weighlifting, and it ends in -ing but it's used with do, so I get confused. But now I have more ideas...Thank you
  7. shardaneng Senior Member

    what if we are talking about sports in general, which is the right verb: "do" or "play"?
    ( << delete >> - "I do sports" o "I play sports"?)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2009
  8. dec-sev Senior Member

    Practise will do for all kind of sports, I believe:
    to practise judo, to practise football. I hope natives will prove me right or wrong.
  9. Hi, dec-sev,

    I think you are probably right, though I'm not going to say practise works for every sport.

    If I did, somebody would find one that it doesn't work for.

  10. Skin Senior Member

    I've always known that you "do sport" in BE, while you "play sports" in AE, but I suspect that this distinction is not rigid.

  11. Atkinson New Member

    Go + sport means there's movement (locomotion) in the sport, that it's not done all in one place.

    go cycling
    go skiing
    go swimming

    Even with non-sport activities done in one place, there is the feeling that you must go somewhere to do them, like,

    go fishing
    go swimming

    do + sport is for sports done in one place,

    do boxing*
    do body-building*
    do archery

    *As you can see, the go + ~ing rule mentioned above isn't entirely accurate.

    I teach my students that play + sports involve a ball or some such object (puck, birdie, disc etc.). I'm sure there's a play sport that doesn't have an object like that, but I haven't thought of one.

    Also, there's the issue of the difference between doing a sport competitively, and doing it for pleasure.

    Tiger Woods plays golf.
    My brother-in-law goes golfing on the weekends.

    I go swimming to keep fit.
    I swim competitively.
  12. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    When you practice football, you are working out with your own team, learning new plays, throwing the ball back and forth, but not necessarily playing football. Many sports are going to use this "training" sense rather than the "doing it for real" sense of practice.
  13. katerina.v New Member

    Another simplified explanation: go+...ing forms
    play+ball games
    do+all the rest
    However, going along with Rover although this is something that came from a book, there is always the risk of missing an exception or special case.
  14. counterclockwise New Member

    What do you think about my understanding?

    We "go" + -ing-form just for fun
    We "do" + any sport / game - regularly on a specially-designed plan to achieve better results like winning a gold medal or setting a record, i.e. professionally.

    English is not my native language. That's why I would be grateful to have any sort of comment by native speakers. Thank you. :)
  15. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Counterclockwise, welcome to the forum!

    I admire your attempt to come up with a general guideline on this topic, but I don't think it works - at least not if I'm understanding you correctly, which I may not. Would you mind filling in your "ing-form" and "any sport/game" blanks with actual words so we can make sure we understand what you're trying to say? In particular, I don't think there are many sports or games that work well with do...but as I said, I could be misunderstanding you.
  16. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    Remember too that there is more than one way to express the same thing.

    He likes to surf. He likes to go surfing. He is a surfer.

    He likes to golf. He likes to go golfing. He likes to play golf. He is a golfer.

    He likes to play baseball. He is a baseball player.

    He likes to play football. He is a football player. NOT "he is a footballer" in the United States, but YES "he is a footballer" in British English. However, American football and British football are two different games.

    There is no easy answer for this, I'm afraid. The forum prohibits us from posting lists, but feel free to ask about any term you have doubts about.
  17. counterclockwise New Member

    JustKate and Sparky Malarky

    I really appreciate your reply. To begin with, I must say that it's my first experience here. That's why my Enlish might seem too clumsy to you. Anyway, up till now I've always thought that if you do some outdoor activity irregularly or just for fun, you "go diving / fishing / jogging / kite-surfing / skating / downhill or cross-country skiing / paragliding / sky-surfing / camping etc. On the other hand, professionals "do sports" i.e. they are striving for better results like winning medals and cups or setting records. To my understanding, they "do gymnastics / track and field / soccer / swimming (I even remember an American swimmer saying "I do backstroke") the way Robin Williams's character in Mrs. Doubtfire put it, "I do voices." I do hope now that I've experssed myself clear enough. Many thanks upfront.

    Sparky Malarky
    I'm afraid I do not understand what you mean by "The forum prohibits us from posting lists ..." What sort of lists do you mean? Thank you.
  18. kra Senior Member

    the EU
    Ukrainian/American English
    Can you say, "I like to play sports" when you're talking about cycling, jogging, and hockey? Or would "I like to do sports" be more applicable to the first two sports activities?
  19. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    Neither. Jogging is not a sport. When you are racing against other people, cycling is a sport, otherwise it is not. If hockey is the only sport you like, it doesn't make much sense to say "I like to play sports."
  20. Tigrena Member

    Can you tell me if we can use in British English or American English the following word-combinations:

    1) do motor racing and go motor racing, go racing
    2) do swimming
    4) do skiing
    5) do golfing
    6) do sailing
    7) go boxing ?

    I guess some of these collocations are a sort of idiomatic. Is that right?
  21. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    None of your examples is idiomatic, I'm afraid - at least not for me. There is no general rule that I can quote here, but I can say that do doesn't work for any of the sports you've listed. Go is better in every case. A possible exception is "do motor racing." I wouldn't use this as a general rule, but I might use it in a question, e.g., "Do you do motor racing?" It's not very likely that I'd say it this way (I'd be far more likely to say "Are you a race car driver?"), but it's at least possible.
  22. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I do a lot of swimming, and I suspect that other members do some golfing or skiing. "Go boxing" isn't possible though.

    How were you thinking of using these "word-combinations", Tigrena?
  23. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    "Do a lot of swimming" sounds, for some reason, much more idiomatic than simply "do swimming." I can't think why.
  24. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Me neither, JK.:) It seems to be the same for other occupations or activities involving gerunds:
    I do some/the gardening/cooking.
    I do gardening when the weather's fine. I do cooking for relaxation.
    They are OK I suppose, but not very idiomatic.
  25. Minus zero Senior Member

    1. Let's do boxing.
    2. Let's do some boxing.
    3. Let's do the boxing.

    Then when do you use the, some, or 0 article?
  26. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I wouldn't use any of those. "Let's box" or "let's go to the gym and box" would work for me. "Let's do the boxing" sounds like you will placing things in boxes. :)
  27. Minus zero Senior Member

    Thank you.

    Then, if I have said "when you do boxing, don't for to wear gloves", would this make sense? If so, what would be the difference between
    1. When you do boxing
    3. When you do the boxing?

    If this still doesn't work, can you explain with do gardening with, without the?
  28. Juhasz Senior Member

    English - United States
    As JamesM has said, when we're talking about the sport of boxing, we don't say "do boxing." Instead, we just say "box." Your sentence should be "when you box, don't forget to wear gloves."

    :thumbsup: You could say, "when you do the boxing, don't forget to wear gloves," but this would mean when you are putting things in boxes, you should wear gloves. This is a completely reasonable sentence, but it does not have anything to do with the sport of boxing.
  29. m0nchichi

    m0nchichi Senior Member

    According to this guide, if I said ' a lot of people do sports in my area', it wouldn't mean they like to go hiking, jogging, or play soccer etc.! So what is the generic term to describe people who pursue physical activities such as biking, hiking, karate, swimming, soccer, tennis etc.
  30. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    What would it mean?

    Sports enthusiasts. Or very informally, sporty types.
  31. m0nchichi

    m0nchichi Senior Member

    According to GenJen's little guide, it would mean they 'do' sports such as karate but not soccer or biking since you 'play' soccer and 'go' hiking. I read that 'do sports' is BrE and AE is 'play sports'. But if 'play sports' encompasses sports such as soccer or tennis, what should I say when I want to address people who do all kinds of sports? Today I saw a lot of people biking and jogging and my initial thought was ' a lot of people do sports here' but then I questioned myself as to whether or not it is right to say it like that.
  32. First of all, I'd probably say exactly what you did: "Today, I saw a lot of people biking and jogging.":D

    I'd express the other thought, I think, as "There must be a lot of athletic people here." which avoids the problem of some sport using "do" or not.

    To my ear, "people who do all kinds of sports" is fine.

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