Difference between GIOCARE and SUONARE

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 a musical instrument”.


How do you use giocare in Italian?

As we said, giocare means to play a game or a sport. This activity can be done either alone, like playing a videogame, or with a toy, or in a team, like playing soccer.

Giocare
To play

Luca gioca a calcio.
Luca plays soccer.

kid playing soccer

For example, you can 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, unlike giocare, is never used to describe people playing with toys or other games.

Suonare means “to make music with an instrument”. For this reason, it is also translated as “to ring” and “to sound”.

Suonare
To play, to ring, to sound

woman playing a mandolin

For example, you can say…

Elena suona la chitarra.
Elena plays the corridor.

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 began to play.

quartet orchestra playing

Some very common expressions with suonare in Italian are…

  • suonare il clacson, to honk
  • suonare le campane, to ring the bells
  • suonarle di santa ragione, to beat someone up

More free Italian resources

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