Jugar vs Jugarse (pronominal verbs)

The Spanish verb jugar can be used with or without reflexive pronouns, with different meanings.

Jugar = to play

With no reflexive pronouns, the verb jugar means "to play" or "to play a game or a sport".

¿Jugamos al ajedrez?
Shall we play chess?

Ayer los niños jugaron durante horas en el jardín.
Yesterday the kids played in the garden for hours.

Jugar con alguien/algo = to mess with someone / to fiddle with something

Sometimes, used with the preposition "con", changes its meaning to "to fiddle with something", when it is a thing or "to play with somebody's feelings" when we are talking about people.

For example:

No juegues con los guisantes y cómetelos ya.
Don't play with the peas and eat them now.

Cristina está jugando con él. No se lo merece.
Cristina is playing with his feelings. He doesn't deserve it.

As a pronominal verb:

Jugarseto gamble/to risk

Se jugó su reloj de oro en una partida de cartas.
He bet his gold watch in a game of cards.

No te juegues todo tu dinero. ¡No seas insensato!
Don't gamble all your money. Don't be stupid!

Me jugué todo lo que tenía y lo perdí.
I gambled all I had and I lost it.

In all these examples we use jugar in its pronominal form. This use of "jugarse" implies that there is a feeling of risk and that what the person has gambled may have been lost or may be lost. 

However the reflexive pronouns may be omitted when using this verb. If this is the case, that nuance of risk and possible loss disappears. This way it is a more neutral meaning of "betting":

Me he jugado quinientos euros en la lotería.
I gambled 500 euros on the lottery. (risk and possible loss)

He jugado quinientos euros en la lotería.
I bet 500 euros on the lottery. (neutral meaning)

Extra note

There are some set expressions to say "to risk your life":

Jugarse la vida 

Jugarse la piel

Jugarse el cuello

 

Los bomberos se juegan la vida todos los días tratando de salvar a la gente en los incendios.
Firefighters risk their lives every day trying to save people's lives in the fires.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Se jugó su reloj de oro en una partida de cartas.
He bet his gold watch in a game of cards.


No te juegues todo tu dinero. ¡No seas insensato!
Don't gamble all your money. Don't be stupid!


He jugado quinientos euros en la lotería.
I bet 500 euros on the lottery. (neutral meaning)


Ayer los niños jugaron durante horas en el jardín.
Yesterday the kids played in the garden for hours.


Me he jugado quinientos euros en la lotería.
I gambled 500 euros on the lottery. (risk and possible loss)


¿Jugamos al ajedrez?
Shall we play chess?


No juegues con los guisantes y cómetelos ya.
Don't play with the peas and eat them now.


Cristina está jugando con él. No se lo merece.
Cristina is playing with his feelings. He doesn't deserve it.


Los bomberos se juegan la vida todos los días tratando de salvar a la gente en los incendios.
Firefighters risk their lives every day trying to save people's lives in the fires.


Me jugué todo lo que tenía y lo perdí.
I gambled all I had and I lost it.


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