The word ‘play‘ can mean many different things. As a verb, the meaning is to do a sport or activity for fun.

For example:

  • I love playing badminton. (do a sport)
  • Libby is playing with her dolly. (do an activity)


Play is a regular verb. The past tense and past participle is played.

phrasal verbs with play

Phrasal verbs with ‘play’ include:

  • play about/around
    meaning – be silly
    example – I’ve played about all year, now I need to start studying.
  • play along
    meaning – agree with someone for a while
    example – A girl thought I was in a boyband. I played along for a bit before telling her I wasn’t.
  • play away
    meaning – cheat on your partner or have a match at an opponent’s ground
    example – My wife has been playing away. Apparently the guy works with her.
  • play back
    meaning – watch/listen to something you recorded
    example – I’m playing back some mix tapes I made when I was a teenager.
  • play down
    meaning – make something seem less important
    example – The government are playing down the possibility of a flu epidemic.
  • play on
    meaning – continue playing
    example – We’ll keep playing on until it gets dark.
  • play out
    meaning – see what happens/the result
    example – Things haven’t played out well, so we have split for good this time.
  • play up
    meaning – misbehave
    example – My phone has been playing up for weeks, I think I need a new one.
  • play with
    meaning – use toys for fun or consider something
    example – I played with the idea of opening a restaurant but decided against it.

picture examples

phrasal verbs with play

Let’s learn the meaning of the phrasal verbs that contain the verb ‘play’ in more detail and see some examples in use.

phrasal verbs with play - around/about
phrasal verbs with play - play along
phrasal verbs with play - play away
phrasal verbs with play - play back
phrasal verbs with play - play down
phrasal verbs with play - play on
phrasal verbs with play - play out
phrasal verbs with play - play up
phrasal verbs with play - play with

You can download a table of phrasal verbs with play below.

Did you know that many idiomatic expressions (idioms) in English also contain a lot of verbs? Just like phrasal verbs, idioms are a major part of the English language (slang in particular). They are used constantly amongst native English speakers and are handy to know and understand.


Now you’ve learnt all the phrasal verbs with play, how about learning the idioms with play too?