Role-play an incident: object of the verb Role-play

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Senior Member
India - Hindi
Hello Everybody,
Can "incident" or "situation" be the object of the verb "role-play"? I think one can only role-play (=play the role of) a person, character, professional, etc, not an incident or situation.

Here are the example sentences:
1. Role-play an incident/a situation where a man's pocket has been picked...
2. Work with a partner and role-play a situation where a teenager is requesting his father to let him drive his car but the father is unwilling...
3. Working in pairs, role-play a conversation between a doctor and a patient.

I would rephrase the sentences like "Role-play a man whose pocket has been picked", "Working in pairs, role-play a doctor and a patient..." etc.

Are the original sentences correct?

Many thanks.
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would be more likely to use "role-play" with a situation than with a person.

    "Let's role-play that conversation. You be (or play, but not role-play) the doctor and I'll be the patient."

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I agree with pob14; I have always thought of role-play (and heaven knows I've participated in enough of them, and once even published one) as referring to the situation in general. "I once devised a role-play that reflected Race Relations in the 1970s... Let's do a role-play on the subject of..."). If I were referring to the individual participants I would have used the phrase play a/the role: "Would you play the role of the estate agent and I'll play the government?"

    Having said that, I don't consider the first WR definition as wrong -- it's just that in my experience definition no.2 is more common.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Grammatically, 'role-play' means "play a role", not "play the role of". The compound verb is formed by incorporating the object 'role', so if the compound takes another object, that must have a more oblique grammatical relationship, so it could be anything. Or in other words, you can play a role or you can play a level 7 magic-user, but 'play' can't take both objects, so the grammar of 'role-play' can't be derived from that of 'play'.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I agree with pob14 and Keith about the usage: it is more usual to use the verb "to role-play" with a situation than with a specific role, though both types of usage occur.

    I disagree that this does not fit the defintion as given. It does not match up with the usage examples, but both definitions here: role-play - Dictionary of English use "situation" in them.


    Negotiating a Raise: "You even might enlist the help of a friend who will role play the scenario with you..."

    Wellbeing - Overcome Anxiety via Role Play: "Character death is a constant possibility in our combat-heavy system and people role-play the grieving process just as they do everything else."
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