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I see that du is used with sport. However for a specific game, I am confused which is the correct phrase

jouer au football (en jouant au football)


jouer du football (en jouant du football)

I see a related question with regard to piano/music. « Jouer au piano » ou « jouer du piano » ? If someone can explain in simple English it will be of great help.

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I have a vague memory that it's "jouer au football" (but "faire du football"), but I can't tell you whether (or why) it's correct. Helpful! – hairboat Aug 21 '13 at 19:01
up vote 9 down vote accepted

It's the verb that drives the preposition. The verb jouer has many possible meanings; depending on the meaning its complement(s) may start with this or that preposition or none.

For a sport or a game, the preposition is à.

Il joue au football.
Il joue aux échecs.

For a musical instrument, the preposition is de.

Il joue du piano.

The basic idea of the distinction is that jouer à is for participating in an activity, while jouer de is for using a physical implement. For a physical implement that represents a game by metonymy, it's still jouer à: “jouer aux dés”, “jouer aux boules”. Jouer de is not in very common use outside musical instruments.

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Pretty certain it's “jouer au football“.

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