Jugar in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses

In this guide we will be talking about the following topics regarding the verb ‘jugar’ in Spanish:

  1. What does ‘jugar’ mean?
  2. Conjugations of ‘jugar’
  3. How to use ‘jugar’ in Spanish?
  4. Expressions & Idioms with ‘jugar’ 
  5. Synonyms for ‘jugar’ in Spanish

What does ‘Jugar’ mean?

In Spanish, the word ‘jugar’ refers to actions that are performed for entertainment purposes or to have fun. As a result, it can be translated as ‘to play’.

This verb usually refers to activities whose main purpose is a competition or simply recreation, but depending on the context, it can mean different things.

  • When referring to recreational activities, ‘jugar’ is translated as ‘to play’.
  • In the field of gambling, the word ‘jugar’ is translated as ‘to play’ or ‘to gamble’.
  • When we talk about risks, ‘jugar’ is translated as ‘to take a risk’.

Take Note: In Spanish, ‘jugar’ is not used when talking about playing music. In fact, when referring to playing musical instruments, we use the verb ‘tocar’ instead. If you’re still a bit confused about these verbs, I wrote about the difference between ‘jugar’ and ‘tocar’ for you! 

‘Jugar’ Conjugations 

In Spanish, ‘jugar’ is an irregular verb. Because of this, the stem jugcan be replaced with ‘jueg’ in some tenses and pronouns. However, this change does not occur in tenses such as future, conditional and imperfect tenses.

graphic explaining jugar stem changes in spanish

Indicative Tenses

Present tense conjugation

In the present tense, ‘jugar’ has some irregularities that you want to keep in mind. So, in this case, you’ll use the irregular stem ‘jueg’ for most of the subjects. Only ‘nosotros’ and ‘vosotros’ will be conjugated with the stem ‘jug’. 

YoJuegoI play
JuegasYou play
Él / Ella / UstedJuegaHe/She plays
NosotrosJugamosWe play
VosotrosJugáisYou play
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJueganThey/You play

Preterite tense conjugation

For the most part, ‘jugar’ acts as a regular verb in the preterite tense. But since the preterite ending for ‘yo’ starts with ‘é’, we use the stem jugufor this person. Doing this allows us to keep the pronunciation of the letter ‘g’ consistent

YoJuguéI played
JugasteYou played
Él / Ella / UstedJugóHe/She played
NosotrosJugamosWe played
VosotrosJugasteisYou played
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJugaronThey/You played

Imperfect tense conjugation

YoJugabaI played
JugabasYou played
Él / Ella / UstedJugabaHe/She played
NosotrosJugábamosWe played
VosotrosJugabaisYou played
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJugabanThey/You played

Future tense conjugation

To conjugate ‘jugar’ to the future tense, you’ll need to use the infinitive verb followed by the proper endings. 

YoJugaréI will play
JugarásYou will play
Él / Ella / UstedJugaráHe/She will play
NosotrosJugaremosWe will play
VosotrosJugaréisYou  will play
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJugaránThey/You will play

Conditional tense conjugation

The conditional tense of ‘jugar’ is also created by using the verb in its infinitive form and adding the corresponding ending to each subject.

YoJugaríaI would play
JugaríasYou would play
Él / Ella / UstedJugaríaHe/She would play
NosotrosJugaríamosWe would play
VosotrosJugaríaisYou would play
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJugaríanThey/You would play

Progressive Tenses

graphic showing how to conjugate jugar to progressive tenses in spanish

Los niños están jugando con la pelota.
The boys are playing with the ball.

Pedro está jugando un videojuego en la habitación. 
Pedro is playing a videogame in the room.

Perfect Tenses

graphic showing how to conjugate jugar indicative perfect tenses

Juan ha jugado fútbol con Luis. 
Juan has played soccer with Luis.

Andrés habría jugado en el parque de no ser por la lluvia.
Andres would have played in the park had it not been for the rain.

Subjunctive Tenses

Present subjunctive conjugation

Since all the present subjunctive endings start with an ‘e’, the stems that you’ll use will be juegu and jugu to keep the pronunciation consistent.

YoJuegueTo play
JueguesTo play
Él / Ella / UstedJuegueTo play
NosotrosJuguemosTo play
VosotrosJuguéisTo play
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJueguenTo play

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

For all forms of the imperfect subjunctive, the stem jug followed by the designated ending must be used.

YoJugara / JugaseI played
Jugaras / JugasesYou played
Él / Ella / UstedJugara / JugaseHe/She played
NosotrosJugáramos / JugásemosWe played
VosotrosJugarais / JugaseisYou played
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasJugaran / JugasenThey/You played

Perfect subjunctive

graphic showing how to conjugate jugar to subjunctive perfect tenses

Si no hubieses jugado con tus amigos, no te habrías lastimado.
If you hadn’t played with your friends, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.

Espero que hayas jugado lo suficiente esta tarde.
I hope you have played enough this afternoon.


Imperative conjugation

Note that the conjugations for ‘tú’ and ‘ustedes’ begin with the stem ‘jueg’ . While, for ‘vosotros’ and ‘nosotros’, the stem ‘jug’ is used.

NosotrosJuguemosLet’s play

[‘Jugar’ in imperative] + [complement]

Juguemos en la piscina.
Let’s play in the pool.

Juega con tu primo mientras regreso.
Play with your cousin while I go back.

No + [Jugar in present subjunctive] + [noun]

No juegues con los mayores. Marcos juega muy rudo.
Don’t play with the adults. Marcos plays too rough.

No juegues paintball sin protección. Los oponentes pueden hacerte daño.
Do not play paintball without protection. The opponents can hurt you.

How to Use ‘Jugar’ in Spanish with Examples

According to its literal translation, ‘jugar’ means ‘to play’. As a result, we use this verb to: 

  1. Express the act of performing a recreational activity.
  2. Talk about the activity of betting money in games.
  3. Expressing the need or action of taking a risk.

Below are some examples of the uses of the verb ‘jugar’ in Spanish. 

To talk about recreational activities 

Given that it’s the direct translation of ‘to play’, in Spanish, we use ‘jugar’ to describe that someone is playing games or doing different recreational activities. As a result, this verb is commonly used when talking about sports and any sort of games.

[‘Jugar’ conjugated] + [preposition] + [noun]

¿Jugaste con Patricia en la casa?
Did you play with Patricia in the house? 

Jugaré baloncesto hasta que me canse.
I will play basketball until I am tired.

¿A qué hora jugaron ayer?
What time did you play yesterday?

Mi mamá me dijo que jugara con mi hermano menor mientras ella cocinaba.
My mom told me to play with my little brother while she cooked.

Cuando era niña, jugaba mucho a las escondidas.
When I was a kid, I played hide and seek a lot.

Referring to gambling games

Another situation where ‘jugar’ can be used is when we talk about gambling. So, as you may imagine, in this context, we can translate this verb as ‘to play’ or ‘to gamble’. Here are some examples of how to use this meaning. 

[‘Jugar’ conjugated] + [complement]

Me gustaría jugar en ese casino.
I would like to gamble in that casino. 

Jugaré en la tragamonedas cuando tenga más dinero.
I will gamble in the slot machine when I have more money.

Siempre jugamos porque nos divierte mucho.
We always gamble because we have a lot of fun.

To describe someone taking a risk

‘Jugársela’, which is the reflexive form of ‘jugar’, is used to talk about people doing risky things, most of the time expecting a positive outcome. It can be translated as ‘to take the risk’, ‘take the plunge’ or ‘take a chance’. To apply it in a sentence, you will have to use the following structure:

(Noun) + [reflexive pronoun] + la + [‘jugar’ conjugated] + [complement]

Me la jugué y falté al trabajo.
I took the risk and missed work.

Luis se la jugó al apostar todo su dinero.
Luis took a risk by gambling all his money.

Vamos perdiendo el juego, ¿nos la jugamos?
We’re losing the game, should we take the plunge?

Take Note: You can only use ‘jugarse(without the pronoun ‘la’) if you’re going to mention the thing that you’re risking. In fact, it’s common to use ‘jugarse’ when talking about risky gambles. 

[Noun] + [reflexive pronoun] + [‘jugar’ conjugated] + [complement]

Algunas personas se juegan la vida diariamente.
Some people risk their lives daily.

Me jugué toda mi quincena y perdí. 
I gambled all my paycheck and I lost. 

Jugar Expressions & Idioms

Jugar con fuego refers to the act of performing some action that is dangerous or likely to bring trouble. It can be translated as ‘to deal with fire’.

Jugar limpio is a phrase used to denote competition free of cheating. It can be translated as ‘to play fair’.

Jugar pesado is used to talk about jokes that go beyond the limit of what is tolerable for certain people. It can be translated as ‘to play rough’ or ‘to go too far’.

Synonyms of ‘Jugar’ in Spanish

Apostar refers to ‘gambling’ in casinos or sporting events.

Competir means ‘to compete’ in some activity.

Arriesgarse can be used instead of ‘jugársela’ when expressing that a person is taking a risk. It means ‘to take a chance’ or ‘to risk’. 

Related Resources
Difference between ‘jugar’ and ‘tocar’: In Spanish, both ‘tocar’ and ‘jugar’ can be translated as ‘to play’. But these verbs are not synonyms for each other nor interchangeable. So, if you’re unfamiliar with them, you should learn when and how to use them.

How to pronounce letter ‘G’ in Spanish: The pronunciation of the letter ‘g’ in Spanish changes depending on the vowel that is placed next to this letter (hard and soft sounds). Here you can learn more about how to pronounce ‘g’ correctly.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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