The sentence:

Pupils who play sports forget to have a good time during the years they do play because they’re so focused on winning.


  1. How should I understand the meaning of "do" after "they" and
  2. How can I substitute "do" with another word?
  3. Is that "do" a modal verb there?

I don't see any reason for the "do" to be there. The sentence carries the same meaning with or without the "do". The "do" is only necessary if the writer is making some sort of comparison between the years they do play versus the years they don't.

  • It is used to emphasize the fact of playing. It may not be necessary but it is used all the time in English. I explain rarely but when I do [explain], I get grouchy. What could have been left out is the second play.
    – Lambie
    Apr 15 '18 at 19:30

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