The Difference Between "Jugar" and "Tocar" in Spanish

Understanding the Difference Between “Jugar” and “Tocar” in Spanish

Are you learning Spanish and often find yourself confused about when to use “jugar” and when to use “tocar” when you want to say “to play”? Don’t worry; you’re not alone! Many English speakers learning Spanish struggle with distinguishing between these two verbs. We’ll break down the differences between “jugar” and “tocar,” providing you with clear examples to help you grasp their usage.


Let’s start with “jugar.” This verb is primarily used when referring to playing a game or sport. It’s sometimes followed by the preposition “a” to indicate what game or sport is being played.

Examples of “jugar” in action:
  1. Yo juego fútbol los fines de semana. (I play soccer on weekends.)
  2. Ellos juegan ajedrez todas las tardes. (They play chess every afternoon.)
  3. ¿Quieres jugar a las escondidas conmigo? (Do you want to play hide and seek with me?)

As you can see from these examples, “jugar” is used when engaging in activities that involve rules, competition, or structured gameplay.


On the other hand, “tocar” is used when referring to playing musical instruments or touching or playing with objects. Unlike “jugar,” “tocar” is never followed by the preposition “a.”

Examples of “tocar” in action:
  1. Ella toca el piano muy bien. (She plays the piano very well.)
  2. Nosotros tocamos la guitarra en el parque. (We play the guitar in the park.)
  3. Los niños están tocando los tambores en la fiesta. (The children are playing the drums at the party.)

In these examples, “tocar” is used to describe playing musical instruments or physically interacting with objects in a playful manner.

Now that you understand the difference between “jugar” and “tocar,” it’s time to practice! Try using these verbs in various sentences to reinforce your understanding. The more you practice, the more natural it will become to choose the correct verb.

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