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Jouer: Conjugation & Definition

Instructor: Marcy Farrell
Did you play any sports this past weekend? Maybe you played checkers or dominos. In this lesson you will learn how to use the verb 'jouer,' to play, in the past tense (passé composé). You will also learn the different prepositions that follow 'jouer.'

Conjugation

Look at the conjugation of the verb jouer in the passé composé

JOUER (pronounced: zhooh-ay) to play
j'ai joué (zhay zhooh-ay) nous avons joué (nooh zah-vahn zhooh-ay)
I played we played
tu as joué (tyooh ah zhooh-ay ) vous avez joué (vooh zah-vay zhooh-ay)
you played (singular) you played (plural)
il / elle a joué (eel / el ah zhooh-ay) ils / elles ont joué (eel / el zahn zhooh-ay)
he / she played they played

Translations

Keep in mind that the passé composé can be translated in three ways. For example, j'ai joué can mean:

  • I played
  • I did play
  • I have played

However, in most simple conversations, the English translation would most typically be 'I played, he played, we played,' etc.

Sports
picture of soccer ball

In French, to talk about playing a sport we use the verb jouer, followed by a form of the preposition à. Read the following examples:

  • J'ai joué au foot. (pronounced: zhay zhooh-ay oh fooht) I played soccer.
  • J'ai joué à la crosse. (pronounced: zhay zhooh-ay ah lah-krosss) I played lacrosse.

We use au when talking about playing soccer, because le foot is a masculine word. Because la crosse is feminine, à la is used.

Most sports are masculine in French, so most of the time you use au for sports. Some other common sports in France are:

Sport Pronunciation Meaning
le rugby luh ruhg-bee rugby
le tennis luh tay-nees tennis
le basket-ball luh baks-ket-bahl basketball
le football américain luh fooht-bahl ah-may-ree-kehn American football
la pétanque lah pay-tahnk lawn bowling or bocci

Pétanque, otherwise known as 'bocci,' is a type of bowling game played outdoors with small but fairly heavy metal balls. It's not as popular as sports like soccer or tennis, but it's fairly common to see groups playing pétanque in parks on the weekend. Senior citizens tend to play pétanque more than young people.

If you were talking with a French family about what they did over the weekend, the grandparents might say Nous avons joué à la pétanque, while the teenagers might say Nous avons joué au rugby. You might reply J'ai joué au football américain or J'ai joué au tennis.

Games

The less athletic among us might more likely talk about playing cards, chess, or board games. As with sports, we use jouer à to talk about playing games. We use au for masculine games and à la for feminine games. For games with plural names, like cards and dominos, we use aux (pronounced: oh). Notice which form of à is used for each game:

Game Pronunciation Meaning
J'ai joué à la marelle zhay zhooh-ay ah lah mah-rel hopskotch
Nous avons joué au Monopoly nooh zahv-on zhooh-ay oh moh-noh-poh-lee Monopoly
Vous avez joué aux dames vooh zahv-ay zhooh-ay oh dahm checkers
Elle a joué aux dominos el ah zhooh-ay oh doh-mee-nohz dominos
Ils ont joué aux cartes eel zahn zhooh-ay oh kart cards

Musical Instruments
image of treble clef

When talking about playing a musical instrument, you use the verb jouer and a form of the preposition de. Instruments can be masculine or feminine in French. A few, like the maracas, are plural. Notice the forms of the prepositions in these sentences:

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