Happy Holi to You and Your Family.
Play Safe!

Is anything grammatically wrong in above sentences?

In which category does the second sentence fall?

Can we replace Play Safe! with Play Safely!. Are they equally true and depict same meaning? Is the usage of exclamation with both safe and safely correct?

  • I don't recognise the word 'Holi'. 'Holiday derives from 'holy day', so perhaps it might be more appropriate to say 'happy holy'! 'Play safely' is correct English, 'play safe' isn't.
    – WS2
    Mar 17, 2014 at 7:48
  • Holi is a specific holiday celebrated in many parts of South Asia. Actually, today is Holi. Happy Holi to you all!
    – Cmillz
    Mar 17, 2014 at 7:50

3 Answers 3


Happy Holi!

Well, first of all, in the English language, most words are not capitalized unless they are at the beginning of a sentence, or in the case of a "title", of sorts. Proper names are capitalized, but "you", "your", and "family" are not proper nouns.

The one exception to this is if you are making a card of some sort. If you want it to stand out on a greeting card, then the capitalization may be appropriate. In that situation, it is a matter of personal choice. However, in most day-to-day conversations (or a post on someone's Facebook wall), it's generally best to avoid capitalizing words that would not be capitalized in a book.

Happy Holi to you and your family!

As for the second part, I'm not entirely sure that either of those phrases reflect your intended meaning.

First of all, I am assuming by, "In which category does the second sentence fall?" you are asking about what type of sentence it is. The sentence seems to be what is called an imperative sentence. An imperative sentence is, essentially, a command. The subject of the sentence is implied to be "you", the one to whom the sentence is spoken.

As for the meanings of the phrases, the imperative sentence, "Play safely," would be the type of warning you would give to a child, to remind him or her to avoid doing anything overly dangerous. The reason I say child, specifically, is because it is generally considered condescending to tell adults to play in most contexts, as "play" is widely considered to be a childish activity.

On the other hand, the imperative sentence, "Play safe," is a (slightly-off) variation of an idiomatic expression, "Play it safe," and it has an entirely different meaning. To "play it safe" is to avoid taking risks, rather than to just be safe. Basically, you are telling the individual to go out of their way to make sure that there is as little damage done to them as possible. In this usage, you are practically telling the individual to avoid having fun.

And, to make matters worse, the term "play safe", is often a reference to condoms! You are telling an individual to use a condom in a holiday greeting!

For the sake of clarity, telling someone to "play it safe" is not considered condescending, as it is an idiom which has little to do with the modern meaning of the word "play", but it is the wrong phrase for the meaning you likely wish to convey.

If you wish to offer someone a wish of good health, and safety is the concern (or if you simply want to wish someone luck in staying safe), then the sentence I would recommend would be a simpler phrase:

Happy Holi to you and your family!

Be safe!

This avoids the questionable use of "play" (as well as the grammar issues regarding the word "safe" not being an adverb; only adverbs can describe verbs), and makes the meaning clear. It is another imperative, telling "you" to be safe.

Totally lovely.

  • 1
    I would never separate “to you and your family” from the greeting with a comma. It is part of the greeting. You'd also never say, “Happy birthday, to you”. Very unnatural. Agree entirely with the rest, though play safe is also a more or less fixed expression for using protection (specifically condoms) when having sex. Mar 17, 2014 at 10:00
  • Yeah, you're absolutely right - the mistake was a combination of tiredness and thinking too much about greetings like "Happy Birthday, John!" Edited that part out, and also added the part about condoms.
    – Cmillz
    Mar 17, 2014 at 10:57
  • 2
    It could also be an optative sentence, implying a wish or prayer, not necessarily just an imperative one, given as a command. Your conclusion certainly points to that interpretation. Nice answer otherwise :) Mar 17, 2014 at 13:00
  • 1
    "The sentence is called an imperative sentence. An imperative sentence is, essentially, a command. The subject of the sentence is the speaker, and the direct object is implied to be "you", the one to whom the sentence is spoken." -- The stuff about the subject and direct object doesn't sound quite right. For "Play safe", the implied subject is "you". For instance, the subject could actually be explicit in the imperative, e.g. "You play safe!"
    – F.E.
    Mar 17, 2014 at 18:11
  • Yeah, wow, I was clearly way too tired for this when I did it. I apologize to everyone who needed to proofread this post.
    – Cmillz
    Mar 17, 2014 at 20:02

As other answers state, if "play" is used as a verb, than "safely" is technically correct. However, it's not uncommon for imperatives like "Play!" to be followed by an adjective in Modern English. For example,

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This is much more common in casual writing and speech, and advertisement for that matter, and one should opt for the adverbial form, "safely", in formal writing and speech.


'Play' can be used as a verb or a noun.

If your use of 'play' here is as a noun (def 3 here), then it would imply the subjunctive, 'May your play be safe', and be perfectly correct, with 'safe' being the adjectival form.

If your use of 'play' here is as a verb (definitions 45, and some following), then you would need to change 'safe' to 'safely' and use the adverbial form of the word.

And yes, Happy Holi! Let the colours fly!

  • I cannot force my brain to think of ‘play’ in “Play safe!” as a noun. It is a verb. The following adjective is not necessarily incorrect even so—it is just an underlyingly predicative adjective modifying the subject: “play [while being] safe”. Mar 17, 2014 at 10:03

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