Faire de, jouer à : talking about sports, hobbies and leisure activities

Jouer or faire? In French, like English, we can both play and do sports/games/hobbies, but you need to know which verb sounds correct for each activity. Here are the rules to help you get it right!

FAIRE DU SPORT

Je fais du sport tous les jours.
I do sport every day.

Il fait du tennis.
He plays tennis.

Sam fait de l'aïkido.
Sam does aïkido.

Tu fais de la natation.
You swim (regularly / in a club).

You can use faire de followed by la or l' in front of a vowel or mute h, but remember that le and les will contract with de and become du and des.
 
For some activities, such as skiing or horse riding, you cannot use jouer, just like you wouldn't say I play ski or I play horse riding in English.
 
 
ATTENTION:
When using "faire de la danse" or "faire de la natation" (FOR EXAMPLE) rather than simply "danser" or "nager", you refer more to an organised, repeated activity - I take dance lessons / I go swimming [as a regular activity, e.g. attending class or lessons] - than just a 'one-off' activity you're in the middle of doing such as I'm dancing / I'm swimming.

Je fais du ski quand je suis dans les Alpes.
I ski when I'm in the Alps.

Je skie avec ma famille.
I'm skiing with my family.


-> Note that in that context, the difference is not very noticeable.

Remember, English has two present tenses: I dance (simple), and I am dancing (continuous) which lets us make the distinction between something you do regularly versus something you're in the middle of doing. French has no present continuous tense, so we use faire de to distinguish the regular activity that you do, from the one-off activity you are doing.  


JOUER + À +  [SPORT]

Ils jouent au basket.

They play basketball.

Je joue aux échecs.
I play chess.

Il joue au tennis.

He plays tennis.

You can use jouer à followed by la or l' in front of a vowel or mute h, but remember that le and les will contract with à and become au and aux.

Ils jouent au basket.

They play basketball.

ATTENTION:
With music instruments, you will use de instead of à  (See Jouer de = to play an instrument).
 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Il joue au tennis.

He plays tennis.


Elle fait de l'équitation.
She goes horse riding (regularly / in a club).


Il fait du tennis.
He plays tennis.


Je skie avec ma famille.
I'm skiing with my family.


Sam fait de l'aïkido.
Sam does aïkido.


Tu fais de la natation.
You swim (regularly / in a club).


Je fais du ski quand je suis dans les Alpes.
I ski when I'm in the Alps.


Ils jouent au basket.

They play basketball.


Je joue aux échecs.
I play chess.



Ils font du basket.
They play basketball.


Je fais du sport tous les jours.
I do sport every day.


Q&A

xela

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2019

3 replies

would" faites-vous de la guitare?" be correct?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

19 May 2019

19/05/19

Hi Xela,

You would say 'Jouez-vous de la guitare? as explained in the following Kwiziq lesson-

https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/jouer-de-to-play-an-instrument

Hope this helps!

xela

Kwiziq community member

19 May 2019

19/05/19

It is just that my French teacher taught us to use "faire" when we want to say we play a musical instrument. So, I was just wondering if we can use it that way. Thank you for your reply.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

20 May 2019

20/05/19

Hi Xela,

You use 'faire' in French when you are concentrating on the activity rather than the playing of the instrument.

For instance if you say -

'Je ne fais plus de piano' , you are saying that you are no longer learning or playing the piano you might have decided to 'faire de la danse' or 'faire de la guitare' ...

I think in English you use play or learn to play , hence the problem...

Hope this helps!

Fran

Kwiziq community member

24 March 2019

1 reply

When I say Le mardi et le jeudi , [je nage] or [ je faire de la natation] à cinq heur. Which one would be correct?

It is a regular activity bit Je faire de la natation seems wrong in this context.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

24 March 2019

24/03/19

Hi Fran,

You would use ‘faire de la natation’ as it represents the activity ‘to go swimming’ rather than the physicality of doing swimming movements.

So you might say -

‘Je me suis fait mal en nageant’ = ‘I hurt myself while swimming’

But

‘Faire de la natation est bon pour la santé‘ ‘Swimming is good for your health‘

Tricky and very subtle I know but hope this helps!

 

Gloria

Kwiziq community member

7 February 2019

1 reply

"Elle fait de la danse." means: She is making up a dance, She takes dance lessons, She's dancing

Bonjour, I put that "she's dancing" and can't work out why it was marked wrong, the answer is "she takes dance lessons" please could you explain?

kind regards

Gloria

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

20 April 2019

20/04/19

Hi Gloria - this is explained in the lesson, but here's the section in case you missed it:

"Remember, English has two present tenses: I dance (simple), and I am dancing (continuous) which lets us make the distinction between something you do regularly versus something you're in the middle of doing. French has no present continuous tense, so we use faire de to distinguish the regular activity that you do, from the one-off activity you are doing. "

Sagar

Kwiziq community member

4 February 2019

2 replies

How to describe one-off dancing / swimming?

The lesson says:

When using "faire de la danse" or "faire de la natation" (FOR EXAMPLE) rather than simply "danser" or "nager", you refer more to an organised, repeated activity - I take dance lessons / I go swimming [as a regular activity, e.g. attending class or lessons] - than just a 'one-off' activity you're in the middle of doing such as I'm dancing / I'm swimming.

How would one then say: "I am dancing / I dance" without implying one is taking dance lessons? Same for swimming.

Thanks.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 February 2019

5/02/19

Hi Sagar, 

You would just use the present tense in French to indicate the English present progressive- I am doing ....

Je danse, je nage etc...

If you want for instance that your car is making a funny noise you will say:

Ma voiture fait un drôle de bruit....Hope this helps!

Sagar

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2019

5/02/19

Thank you!

Kanne

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2019

1 reply

How do I use faire or jouer in the future or past tense?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

30 January 2019

30/01/19

Simply put the verb faire in the desired tense:

Je fais du jogging.

Je ferai du jogging.

J'ai fait du jogging.

And so on.

Bill

Kwiziq community member

30 December 2018

0 replies

The lesson doesn't make it clear that most sports are either faire de OR jouer à

The lesson implies that the two are interchangeable.   Ironically, while the only correct response in the quiz for "golf" is jouer à, the link to a lesson that Laura wrote states that both faire de and jouir à can be used.  https://www.thoughtco.com/french-vocabulary-learn-to-talk-sports-4079654  Suggest that these distinctions be made clearer in the lesson.  Thanks.

carole

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2018

1 reply

french lessons

Je fais des leçons du français.

I take french lessons ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2018

19/12/18

No, that doesn't work in French. You could say, Je prends un cours de français.

Joan

Kwiziq community member

1 December 2018

3 replies

Why do we use partitive articles for 'faire' but definite articles for 'jouer à'?

Il fait du tennis (fait + de le)

Il joue au tennis (joue à + le)

I thought whether we use partitve articles should depends on the thing we modify instead of the verb

Chris

Kwiziq community member

1 December 2018

1/12/18

Some verbs take à, others de as preposition. No rhyme, no reason. It's the way it is. 

Joan

Kwiziq community member

1 December 2018

1/12/18

But 'faire' does not take any preposition here, "du" (tennis) is partitive articles.

I do not understand why "tennis" (and other sports) use partitive articles when the verb is "faire", but definite articles when the verb is "jouer à"

Chris

Kwiziq community member

1 December 2018

1/12/18

Nothing to understand, here, Joan. I am sorry to say but that's just the way it is.

Faire + de + le = faire du.
Jouer + à + le = jouer au.

Marnie

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2018

4 replies

Faire de, jouer à

Just wondering if it might be possible to add a note after the end of the examples for »jouer à/au » and sport saying NB when you play an instrument however you say « jouer à la/au » just to remind people that jouer is used in this way also???

Chris

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2018

31/07/18

Je joue au foot. 

Je joue de la guitare. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

31 July 2018

31/07/18

Hi Marnie,

For musical instruments we use,  'jouer de'.

A few more examples -

jouer de la guitare,

jouer de la clarinette,

jouer du piano ,

jouer du tambour,

jouer de la harpe

jouer des castagnettes....

 

Hope  this helps!

Marnie

Kwiziq community member

1 August 2018

1/08/18

thanks Cécile it does. Just think it would be useful to mention this in the faire/jouer section on playing sports...as a note...”but when used with instruments it is ‘Jouer de/etc”.  I see somebody else agrees with me.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 August 2018

2/08/18

Bonjour Marnie !

This was an excellent suggestion, and I've now added it to the lesson above :)

Merci et bonne journée !

David

Kwiziq community member

8 July 2018

0 replies

Might this be a good place to mention jouer de

This lesson mentions jouer a <sport> but it could be improved if it contrasted it with jouer de <instrument>

Let me take a look at that...