English is my second language so there are a lot of new things to me. I just came across several sentences containing the phrases "play dead", "play sick" and "play cute" so I wonder if the verb "play" can go with an adjective. Is there any structure like that? Please explain specifically. Thanks. I really appreciate your answer.

2 Answers 2


Some English verbs can be used in a verb + adjective structure. The copula, be, is obviously one (I am cold). Verbs used functionally purely as a link between the subject and an adjective (or noun: I am John) have been called link verbs by some, although some say this approach is unacceptably simplistic (see John Lawler's comments in the What are all the words that make up a complete list of linking verbs in English? string).

Verbs which link but also carry semantic weight (he became cold / she stood tall / the rose blushed pink) have been called link-like verbs.

The adjective does not really modify the verb directly as an adverb would. Consider the differences between 'rapidly' and 'cool' (one giving more detail about the process, one describing the final state of the referent) in The lava rapidly became cool. Another example: 'act stupid' can mean something different from 'act stupidly':

to act stupid (= pretend to be stupid) [Collins Spanish Dictionary].

'Play dead' etc are, however, perhaps better treated as inseparable idioms.

  • "Semantic bleaching" is what is said to happen to verbs in the process of turning into auxiliaries; the process can take centuries. Apr 17, 2015 at 17:09

This is use of the verb "Play" without an object

Verb (used without object)

  1. To conduct oneself or act in a specified way: to play fair.



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