"Jugar a las damas, "jugar al ajedrez". Why do we have to have "a" in there?

"Jugar a las damas, "jugar al ajedrez". Why do we have to have "a" in there?


My Spanish book is saying that the phrase "to play checkers" is "jugar a las damas." Similarly, "to play chess" they're saying is "jugar al ajedrez." Why do we have to have "a" in there? I thought "a" was only supposed to be used before people. Is it possible to just say "jugar las damas" or "jugar el ajedrez" instead?

Also, is it possible to drop the definite articles in these phrases? Could you just say "jugar damas" or "jugar ajedrez?" I'm not really sure when to use the definite articles and when not to use them!

updated DIC 31, 2009
edited by Issabela
posted by thaibean06

2 Answers


The "a" you're referring to is a preposition. You see, every language has its own prepositional patterns, so does English or Spanish. In general, to play something is translated as "jugar a": jugar a las muñecas, jugar al ajedrez/a las cartas, jugar a la lotería. You can check other phrases in our dictionary.

In Polish it's also necessary to use a preposition after play - gra? w (jugar a); you'll find lots of differences between Spanish and English... and lots of similarities too smile

updated ABR 7, 2011
posted by Issabela
Thank you for your answer! That makes sense! Must I keep the "los" and the "los" in there as well? - thaibean06, OCT 24, 2009
Yes - Eddy, OCT 24, 2009

Actually, in older texts in English you sometimes see "play at darts" "play at cards" etc. Same thing smile

updated OCT 24, 2009
posted by Valerie
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