Fair play

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' - English saying

Foul play

What is ...?

1 fair play

a. respectful and honest treatment of people

b. a game where nobody wins

2 foul play

a. a sporting event that is cancelled halfway through

b. a criminal act that results in serious injury or damage

3 play-acting

a. behaviour that doesn't represent a person's true feelings

b. a very unconvincing performance in film or theatre

4 a play on words

a. a crossword or wordsearch

b. an amusing use of a word that has more than one meaning or that sounds like another word

5 child's play

a. something that is simple to do

b. a game that is only played by babies

Playing with nouns

Complete the following sentences by choosing the correct word/words in brackets.

1 Stop all this (play on words / play-acting) and tell me what you really think of me!

2 The name he's given his new hairdressing business is a clever (fair play / play on words).

3 Our new boss is a great leader. He believes in (fair play / foul play) at all times and treats everyone in the office with respect.

4 It's not clear what caused the fire, but the police suspect (child's play / foul play).

5 Even you could use the new computer, Mum, it really is (play-acting / child's play)!

Play verbs

What do these popular verb phrases mean?

1 to play with fire

a. to act in a very dangerous or risky way

b. to pretend you know how to do something when you don't

2 to play God

a. to behave very responsibly

b. to behave as if you control events or other people's lives

3 to play second fiddle

a. to pretend you are more important than you are

b. to be, or to be treated as if you are, less important than someone else

4 to play gooseberry

a. to be the unwanted third person when two other people want to be alone

b. to be allergic to fruit

5 to play your cards right

a. to behave in a way that will bring you benefits

b. to ignore the advice that an expert gives you

Playing gooseberry

Complete each of these sentences with the correct words from the brackets.

1 I'm not coming to the cinema with you and Mark tonight. Thanks for asking but I don't want to (play my cards right / play gooseberry).

2 It's Joe's life. You've got to stop (playing God/ playing second fiddle) and let him decide what he wants to study at university.

3 You know very well that if you (play your cards right / play with fire) the boss will promote you before the end of the year.

4 You're (playing with fire / playing gooseberry) hanging out with Paul, John and Peter at the same time. You know they get a little bit crazy.

5 Rebecca has always (played God / played second fiddle) to Suzanne, but since her promotion, she's not afraid to voice her opinion.


A friend gave you these bits of advice. What did he mean?

1 I would play it cool if I were you.

a. I would get very angry.

b. I would act as if I wasn't bothered.

2 You shouldn't play Katy and Michael off against each other.

a. You shouldn't try to get Katy and Michael to disagree with each other in way that helps you.

b. You shouldn't lie to Katy and tell Michael the truth about what you've done.

3 Stop playing around!

a. Stop acting so seriously.

b. Stop being silly and wasting your time.

4 You should play it by ear.

a. You should ignore what people are telling you.

b. You should wait and see how something develops before you decide what to do.


Foul play: 1. a, 2. b, 3. a, 4. b, 5. a

Playing with nouns: 1. play-acting, 2. play on words, 3. fair play, 4. foul play, 5. child's play

Play verbs: 1. a, 2. b, 3. b, 4. a, 5. a

Playing gooseberry: 1. play gooseberry, 2. playing God, 3. play your cards right, 4. playing with fire, 5. played second fiddle

Advice: 1. b, 2. a, 3. b, 4. b