Difference between giocare and suonare

What’s the difference between giocare and suonare in Italian? Are there any situations where you must use one or the other? Are these verbs interchangeable at all?

In this lesson, we will look at how to use these words with many audio recordings and example sentences. Read on to learn everything you need to know!

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Giocare and suonare in Italian

Both giocare and suonare translate to the English verb “to play”, but in reality, they are very different and are NOT interchangeable.

Giocare means “to play a game or sport”.

Suonare means “to play an instrument”.

Still confused? Let’s take a closer look at each verb.

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How do you use giocare in Italian?

As said, giocare implies playing a game or a sport. This activity can either be done alone, such as playing a videogame, or with a toy, or in a team such as when you play football.

➡️ See the lesson for the complete conjugation tables of giocare!

To play

Luca gioca a calcio.
Luca plays soccer.

kid playing soccer with a blue shirt on

For example, you could say…

I bambini hanno giocato a calcio.
The children played soccer.

Non ho mai giocato a Scarabeo. Quali sono le regole?
I have never played Scrabble. What are the rules?

Marco gioca spesso con i trenini.
Marco often plays with toy trains.

Giochi spesso a pallavolo?
Do you often play volleyball?

Some very common expressions with giocare in Italian are…

  • giocare d’azzardo, to gamble
  • giocare a carte scoperte, to lay one’s cards on the table
  • giocare in attacco, to play offense

How do you use suonare in Italian?

Suonare, differently from giocare, is never used to describe people playing with toys or other games.

Suonare means “to produce music with an instrument”. For this reason, it also translates the verbs “to ring” and “to sound.

To play, to ring, to sound

woman playing a mandolin

For example, you could say…

Elena suona la chitarra.
Elena plays the guitar.

Il telefono sta suonando in corridoio.
The phone is ringing in the hallway.

Questa frase non mi suona bene.
This sentence doesn’t sound right to me.

L’orchestra iniziò a suonare.
The orchestra started playing.

quartet orchestra playing

And that’s it, now you know how to use giocare and suonare in Italian in all situations!

What next?

Now that you’ve seen how to use giocare and suonare in Italian, you might want to keep learning Italian online with these free Italian resources:

Title: Italian All-in-One For Dummies
Language: English / Italian
Publisher: For Dummies
Pages: 672

Learn to speak Italian like a native? Easy.
Italian All-in-One For Dummies appeals to those readers looking for a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide to mastering the Italian language. It contains content from all For Dummies Italian language instruction titles, including Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set.

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