In a comment to a recent question, a user explained that while the verb swing may mean "to move backwards and forwards on a seat called a swing", he went on to say that "[n]ormally, people in the UK say 'They're going on the swings' / 'She's playing on the swing' rather than describing the actual motion."

This is all very confusing to me, because in my mother tongue we directly describe the motion and do not use constructions like "go on" or "play on". So I'm wondering: If the verb swing does have the cited meaning of sitting on a swing and moving, but it is not commonly used to express that meaning, in what contexts would one actually use the verb swing with that meaning.

If, for example, a parent from the UK wanted to ask their child whether she wanted to sit on a swing and swing, would they say:

  1. Would you like to swing?
  2. Would you like to go on the swings?   (is the plural correct)
  3. Would you like to play on the swing?   (why singular here?)

I tried googling these and similar phrases, but the results were unconclusive.


1 Answer 1

  1. I would say if my child was sitting on the swing but not moving. A small child might be scared or might not know how to get themselves moving - they might need a push. Or they might just be doing something else, thinking, talking etc. So I would ask, "Do you want to swing?" before pushing them.

  2. and 3. are for me the same, and there is little difference between "swings" and "swing" for me. A single construction with multiple seats-on-chains could be called a swing or the swings. The context here is that my child is not yet sitting on that seat-on-chains. We are, perhaps, in the playground, but deciding whether today's fun will be on the swings or the roundabout.

  • 2
    Would 'swing' suggest there is only a single one (e.g. at home), while 'swings' that there are several to choose from (e.g. in a playground)?
    – user184130
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 10:10
  • Also possible, yes. Commented May 29, 2018 at 7:08

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