Collocations With The Word Play

Collocations are words that usually go together in English.

Here we are going to look at words that go with 'play' to make useful and popular expressions you will hear in social and professional contexts.

Playing field

A 'playing field' is a set of conditions for something involving competition. The popular expression 'a level playing field' (see example below) means a situation in which all people are treated equally or fairly.


  • If the new legislation is passed, it would alter the playing field for businesses in the industry.
  • The activist claimed that there should be a level playing field for men and women in the workplace.
  • Life can be harder for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They do not always have an equal playing field.

Play area

A 'play area' is a designated space where children can engage in activities and have fun.


  • There is a play area in the doctor's waiting room so children don't get bored and restless while they wait.
  • I took my son to the outdoor play area and watched him go on the swings and slides.

Play havoc

If something is said to 'play havoc', it causes problems or disruptions for somebody or something.


  • Roadworks have played havoc with the morning traffic. It took me 2 hours to get to the office today!
  • Kevin just knew that the heatwave would play havoc with his sensitive skin.
  • These constant setbacks are playing havoc with our schedule!

Play catch-up

When you 'play catch-up', you try to reach the same level of understanding or performance as others.


  • I was sick all last week so I have to play catch-up at work.
  • Thanks to these setbacks, we've been playing catch-up on production for the past few days.
  • Everybody is so far ahead of me in sales this month. I'm really going to have to play catch-up here.

Play games (with somebody)

If you 'play games', you behave in a dishonest or unfair way with somebody, usually in order to mislead or manipulate them.


  • Quit playing games with me, John, and just tell me whether you sent that email or not!
  • I'm not here to play games with you - I genuinely want to make a deal.
  • The murderer keeps leaving false clues that lead to a dead end. He's clearly playing games with the police. 

Related Links