Not quite , I think. In French, "jouer à" introduces the name of a game: ils jouent au Scrabble, for ex. Including games with no accessory, like: ils jouent à cache-cache, ils jouent aux cow-boys et aux indiens. Now "quoi ils jouent ?" is not correct. You should say "qu'est-ce qu'ils jouent ?" or "que jouent-ils?" for musicians or actors, but the verb "jouer" is then transitive (no preposition needed)
I believe an old English sentence structure is "they play at cricket". It's not used anymore but it is useful to remember, as it's the direct translation of the French and has the same meaning. I could be wrong!
We still have "play at" in certain situations, for instance, as an expression describing some type of deception or hidden strategy. "I can't figure out why he wouldn't give me his number. I wonder what he's playing at." I wonder if this usage exists in French, too.
It does: "Je ne vois pas pourquoi il ne me donne pas son numéro. Je me demande à quoi il joue."
You are absolutely right. I answered it that way, I must be very old fashioned LOL
Different prepositions are used with "jouer", depending on the context.
On its own, "jouer" means to have fun or play around. Je nage pour jouer.
"jouer à + article" is used for sports or games. Je joue au golf. Ils jouent au basket. Jouons au jeu de société!!
Uses with other prepositions here: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/jouer.htm
In English you might say 'What are they playing at?' when someone is behaving inappropriately. Anyone know if this translates exactly? This was the answer I put and it was marked as correct.
Yes, the sentence in French can mean the same as 'what are they playing at?"
Different language, different verb constructions and prepositional usage:
- sports and games: jouer à + definite article = jouer à la balle, jouer au ballon, jouer aux fléchettes (darts)
- musical instruments: jouer de + definite article = jouer de la harpe, jouer du violon, jouer des cymbales (fem)
Could "Ils jouent à quoi" not also be translated to, "They play with what" or "What do they play with"? Either seems consistent with a literal translation.
And wouldn't "Quoi ils-jouent" be another grammatically correct way to ask this in French? (without the à)
I guess that's how the French have DECIDED to say it after centuries of the existence of their beautiful language
How would you say. "What do they plan in?". Would that not be Ils jouent à quoi?
Having listened several times, I can't hear the clues to knowing it's 'ils jouent' as opposed to 'il joue'. Help, hints, appreciated.
Well, that's what I thought but having got it wrong, assumed there must be some unfathomable reason. Don't mind losing the heart now that I know (thank you, Sitesurf) that the answer I gave wasn't incorrect.