Play and Play correct usage

Portuguêse has two verbs for To play (or three if you count to play a musical instrument -Tocar-) Which one to use an when?
A criança brinca (brincar) no parque. The child plays in the park.
Os meninos jogam (jogar) futebol. The boys play football.
Am I correct in assuming that jogar is used more for competetive games and brincar for more general play?

That’s correct. Brincar is for general child’s play or for when you want to say you’re joking. Jogar is for other games and also for sports in general. Some children’s games have specific names (such as hide and seek), in which case, both verbs might end up being used.


  • As meninas estão a brincar no parque infantil. (The girls are playing in the playground)
  • Eles brincam com bonecas. (They play with dolls)
  • É uma piada, estou a brincar! (It’s a joke, I’m joking!)
  • Vamos brincar às escondidas? (Shall we play hide and seek?)


  • Vamos jogar às escondidas? (Shall we play hide and seek?)
  • Nós jogamos às cartas nos fins de semana. (We play card games on weekends)
  • A Joana joga basquetebol. (Joana plays basketball)
  • Eu jogo com amigos online. (I play with friends online)
  • Tu jogas muitos jogos de consola. (You play a lot of videogames)

Thank you Joseph for a very informative reply.