This came up on Duolingo a while back and I'd like to get the community's consensus.

The phrase they give for We are playing cards is Ni ludas je kartoj. So would je be appropriate when you are playing with a particular item? Example: My kitten plays with a string => Mia katido ludas je ŝnureto

If not, what would be more appropriate? I would think kun implies participation of the item being played with (Mia filino ludas kun sia frato) for instance, although in the case of my kids this could either have been they were playing on the swing in the back yard, or she was dressing him up like a Barbie doll.

5 Answers 5


The question mixes up two things, which should be separated:

1) "to play something", where "something" names the kind of game, is just ludi ion: "infanoj ludadis militon sur la herbo" (children were playing war on the meadow; Zamenhof)

2) "to play with something", where "something" names the toy, has two competing expressions:

-ludi kun io: This is found virtually in older texts only ("la infano [...] ludis kun korbeto plena je floroj"; the child played with a basket full of flowers Zamenhof), 19 hits in the Tekstaro

-ludi per io: This is now the regular expression (31 hits in the Tekstaro). This expression is more logical, as per names an instrument that is used for doing something (like playing), while kun expresses company, usually of a living being.

  • So your point would be that ludi je is not correct, and it should be Ni ludas karton if it's a card game, and Ni ludas per karton if you're playing with the cards (eg building a house of cards)? Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 8:25
  • 1
    @OliverMason Yes, precisely. However, there should be no accusative after per: Ni ludas per kartoj. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 10:45
  • @Joffysloffy Of course! Silly me :) Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 10:59
  • @OliverMason No problem :). Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 10:59
  • @Cyril Brosch Thank you for your reply. So it sounds like instead of "Ni ludas je kartoj" Duolingo should have used "Ni ludas per kartoj", which makes sense, since I learned you should never use 'je' when another preposition would do. But one has to wonder where they came up with the 'je' version, unless someone just put the sentence together without checking it first.
    – Creede
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 19:46

Normally ludi je would be followed by the name of a specific game. As for other objects, one could vaguely say je la ŝnureto but generally there is no reason to when you can say kun or per.

  • La katido ludis per/kun la ŝnureto. The kitten played with the string.

  • La katido batetadis la ŝnureton per piedo. The kitten would bat the string around with a paw.

  • Ŝi ludis kun la fajro per la fajrostango. She played with the fire using the poker. She used the poker to play with the fire.

  • Mi ludis kun mia frato je la fajro per longaj branĉoj. I played with the fire with my brother using long branches. (Better: Mi kaj mia frato ludis kun la fajro...)

  • Li turnetis la gitaron en siaj manoj. or Li ludiligis la gitaron dum momento. or Li sencele manipulis la gitaron. He toyed with the guitar.

Concerning cards:

  • Ili ludis kartojn. They played cards.
  • Ili ludis je kartoj. They played at cards.

No real difference there. I would interpret ludis je la kartoj as "played around with the cards" but it's difficult to decide out of context.

  • Li ludis la pikan ason. He played the ace of spades.
  • Ili ludis briĝon, je Monopoly. They played bridge, Monopoly.
  • Ili ludis per/kun kartoj. They played [the game] using cards.
  • Ili ludiligis la kartojn. They toyed with, played around with the cards.
  • Ili fingrumis la kartojn. They fiddled with the cards.
  • Ili sencele puŝetis la kartojn sur la tablo. They idly nudged the cards around on the table.

There are two problems with the answers given so far. First a few of them give very hard and fast rules where there is actually some wiggle area. Second, the others sound very speculative and/or don't refer to any sources.

Quite frankly, the Duolingo sentence surprised me at first, but I've come to the conclusion that the sentence is fine. Ni ludas je kartoj

If the cat is playing with a string, then it would have to be per.

The usual use of ludi kun is to indicate fellow players.

A good place to look for examples is PIV. There are several good examples there, including some interesting counter-examples.

  • la knabino ludis kun sia pupoZ

It's true that the name of the game or category of the game is often given by the accusative.

  • blindulo kartojn ludi ne devasZ

But there's no reason this can't also be done with je. The exact phrase ludi je kartoj is found in L'Esperantiste. There are different examples in the Tekstaro as well. (Translations are mine.)

  • La infanoj ludis je mono - The children played money.
  • Ludi je soldatoj = To play soldiers.

In conclusion: Ludi je kartoj is correct. Ludi per ŝnuro is correct.


I think it is better to say kun rather than je but here are some examples from the tekstaro:

  • Ĉu vi ne volas ludi je la animoj?

  • ...komencis ludi je soldatoj.

  • La infanoj ludas je mono.


Ludi je and Ludi kun are two different things.

Ludi je indicates a specific game that is played with two people, but you don't explicitly describe the two people. You only mention one.

Ludi kun, as in an animal playing with a toy, is a completely different idea. That is a toy or item that is played with by one person or animal. It can also be used as in your example of one cousin playing with another.

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