Vocabulary – Verbs Used To Talk About Sports

by Melanie on May 4, 2010

(Photo by Carlos Sottovia)


In English, we use three different verbs to talk about sports:

play ~ do ~ go


1) Use PLAY for team sports or sports played with a ball:


I love to play badminton.

I played basketball when I was in high school.

In my spare time, I play soccer with my friends.

Do you play any sports?

When I was a kid, I loved playing baseball with my family.


2) Use GO for sports that end in –ing (gerunds):

skating / figure skating

I love to go jogging in the morning before I go to work.

My grandfather and I go fishing every time I visit him.

Every winter, my family and I go skiing in the Rockies.

What are you doing this weekend? Let’s go swimming!


*NOTE: There is NO to between go and the activity. You do NOT ‘go to swimming.’ You just ‘go swimming.’

The sports that end in –ing are all in gerund form. They can also be used in their verb form:

dive / scuba dive
skate / figure skate

Do you scuba dive? Yes! I love scuba diving.

I learned how to ski when I was 9 years old.

She skates at the local community centre.

He runs marathons for fun!


There’s always an exception to the rule in English! These sports are not used with go:

weight training

Don’t use a verb with these sports. They don’t fit easily into any of the three categories. Don’t say “I do boxing” or “I go fencing.” You can say,

I like to box.
I like watching fencing at the Olympics.

Sometimes we use these sports with do some,

I’m going to the gym to do some weight training.

3) Use DO with sports that you don’t need any equipment to do:

karate / martial arts

She does a lot of yoga – that’s why she looks so great!

My daughter used to take swimming lessons, but now she does gymnastics.

Do you do any sports?

To stay in shape, I jog every morning, I play tennis and I also do aerobics.


  • Make is not used in English to talk about sports.
  • Practice is rarely used to talk about sports. It is only used to talk about professional athletes who need to practice their skills before a game or an important event. The average person does not practice a sport.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 shiunkle July 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Thank you for teaching the differences among play, go, and do when talking about the sports.


2 Marcelo Perez June 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

I’m a English student, and I’m trying to find out the differences between Roller Skating, Rollerblading, Skateboarding, etc.
How can I call every skater according the skate they use?
How can I call all of them as a kind of sport?
Hope I’ve been clear!
Thanks a lot for your help.


Melanie 3 Melanie June 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Hi, Marcelo!

The best way to find out the differences between roller-skating, rollerblading/in-line skating, skateboarding & figure skating is to use Google. Type ‘skateboarding’ in the search box, for example, then on the results page click ‘images.’ This will show you pictures of each activity.

Someone who does these activities is a ‘skater.’ Someone can also be a roller skater, a rollerblader/in-line skater, a skateboarder, a figure skater. When you use ‘skater,’ people will know what you’re talking about from the context of the conversation.

All of these activities are part of category 2 – they are gerunds & regular verbs.

I hope this answered your questions!
= )


4 sugarhoney July 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm

hi melanie,

does “go running” means “go jogging”


Melanie 5 Melanie July 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Kind of! ‘Jogging’ is a slower form of ‘running.’ A jog is a slow run.

= )


6 Eliana Capiotto July 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Hi Melanie!
I’ve got a great doubt about the verbs we use with the ING and the ones we don’t. For example, once I saw in a test: “Would you like to have some tea?”, but I learnt that verbs which follow verbs like LOVE, LIKE HATE…etc, have to be in the ING form, so I thought the right answer would be “Would you like having some tea?” Is there a difference to this rule when we make questions or statements?
I like very much your website! It helps me a lot, and I’m sure it does as well to others.
Thank you!


Melanie 7 Melanie August 1, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Hi, Eliana! Thank you for your kind words about my website!

Gerunds (verbs in -ing form that acts like nouns) are a very confusing part of English. ‘Love,’ ‘like,’ & ‘hate’ are part of a group of verbs that can be followed an infinitive AND a gerund. However, the verb in your example question “Would you like to have some tea?” is actually ‘would like,’ not ‘like.’ ‘Would like’ is part of another group of verbs that can only be followed by an infinitive (when followed by another verb).

Englishpage.com has an in-depth tutorial on gerunds & infinitives:

I hope this helped!
= )


8 Roxana August 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

Hi Melanie:
I love your website. you have a very good information thay are going to use and sharing with my students.
thank you


9 Juan January 20, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hi Melanie,

I’m currently improving my english and soon I’ll be taking the FCE exam. That’s why I’ve been using several internet resources and finding your blog has been a wonderful surprise to me. It has been very useful.

Thanks a lot for help us!


10 AYA February 10, 2013 at 8:05 am

Hi Melanie,
thanks for your great teaching tips? Could you plz tell me which verb we use to talk about boxing,fencing and wrestling.


11 misato May 2, 2013 at 3:36 am

Hi melaine,

my english techer told me that i practise judo not play judo.

whats the differense? When do i use practise or play?

thanks you


Melanie 12 Melanie May 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hello Misato,

Take a look at how to use ‘play’ in section 1.:
“Use PLAY for team sports or sports played with a ball.”

Is judo a team sport? Is judo a sport played with ball? If judo is not a team sport or played with a ball, then you don’t use ‘play.’

Now, take a look at the end of the article:
“Practice is rarely used to talk about sports. It is only used to talk about professional athletes who need to practice their skills before a game or an important event. The average person does not practice a sport.”

Judo is a sport in section 3:
“Use DO with sports that you don’t need any equipment to do.”

Some people who are very serious about judo and have done judo for many years use the verb ‘practice.’ However, in normal everyday conversation, use ‘do’ to talk about judo.

“I’ve been doing judo for 10 years.”

= )


13 Carme May 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

Hi Melanie,
could you tell me how i could memorize the phrasal verbs or something ?? I have an exam and I only remember three or four


Melanie 14 Melanie May 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Hi, Carme,

You can’t memorize phrasal verbs. There are too many of them. You need to learn them in context.

What exam are you studying for?

In my weekly podcast, I use core vocabulary & phrasal verbs. Listening to the podcast & learning phrasal verbs in context will help you remember them easier:

Good luck to you!


15 afhsin May 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi Melanie,
Thanks for the lesson
weight training is an exception. although it ends in -ing, it is used with “do”.
am I right?


16 Erwin November 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I think Boxing or Fencing aren’t in any category, because they finish in ING but they are performing in a closed space or gym without a team. So Would be the most appropiate if we use DO?


Melanie 17 Melanie November 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Hi, Erwin,

Lots of English learners ask about this, so I added a section on boxing, fencing & weight training. The problem is that these verbs don’t fit neatly into any category. “I do boxing” sounds odd, as does “I do fencing.” There is no clear ‘rule’ about these three verbs!

= )


18 Abdlatif April 10, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Hi everyone ! I’m an ESL teacher .I think there is another destinction for the verbs used with sport ,that is, we use do for sports inside rooms ( karate…) ,play ( outside / group ) and go ( outside / at least two people).. is that true?


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