In an English test I had recently, there was this multiple choice question:

There were lots of different activities for Jay to ... there.

A - Make B - Do C - Play

There was no extra information for the exercise, just the word to complete.

I chose do, but it turns out both do and play were accepted. Why is the word "play" accepted to complete this sentence?

Are they both correct? Why? If there was a question on the SAT telling me to complete the sentence with the verb that best suits the sentence, which should I choose?

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    Do. You can do more things than play. Different activities implies a wide variety (e.g. paint, draw, read, play games, do puzzles, make things, exercise, whatever. If the sentence read There were lots of different games/sports for Jay to ... there. then the best answer would be play. – anongoodnurse Feb 12 '14 at 3:01
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    I'm surprised that play was accepted. Playing activities doesn't sound right to me, semantically. – Bradd Szonye Feb 12 '14 at 3:42
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    It's the fault of Common Core. 'Activities to play' definitely does NOT sound natural, but we wouldn't want to mark someones answer 'wrong' for giving their best effort, now would we? ;-) – MrWonderful Feb 12 '14 at 6:51

Play is not accepted in this case.

For it to work, we would have to be able to rephrase it as a simpler clause, thus:

*Jay made activities / Jay makes activities.

Jay did activities / Jay does activities.

*Jay played activities / Jay plays activities.

Syntactically they're all fine, but the first requires an object that makes sense with the meaning of make which suggests creation, so requires something he could "make". Activities would be strange here.

(It is perhaps in the list precisely because in some other languages there is a word that covers both this and also do, so some people with English as a second language will confuse them).

The third similarly requires an object that makes sense with play, and we would only allow this with certain nouns, such as games, musical instruments, tricks, or the names of specific cases of those.

Really, I'd say this is a worse choice than make.

I suspect this is simply a slip by the teacher.

I note that while I can't see the answers in the preview here, the phrasing of the question does definitely suggest one pick a single best answer. The implication is strong that there is one, and only one acceptable answer.

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