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A colleague of mine said there is no such thing as "playing snowball" in English.

In my native language, when we talk about "snowball", we use it with the verb "play." I wonder "playing snowball sounds" like a natural use of language in English? I looked it up in a few dictionaries and I couldn't find an example with play.

However, when I looked it up on Ludwig, I found out about two sentences.

Another 10-year-old, Ashvini, kept warm by playing snowballs with his dad, Dheeraj Kulshrestha, after possibly the longest journey of everyone. They were stopping off in London en route from Ohio to India and decided to make the pilgrimage to Stonehenge for the solstice. --Steven Morris- Guardian

"But I have always liked Charles - I've always had a soft spot for him. I used to watch Charles and Anne playing snowballs as children at Sandringham, they had little blue coats on. Yes, I go back a long way." By Zoe Applegate & Martin BarberBBC News, Norfolk

So, can I use "playing snowball" or not? Do I have to say "have a snowball fight?" or "throw snowballs" ?

Just to make it clear, do all of the following sentences sound OK and can they be used interchangeably?

  1. Children were throwing snowballs on the street.
  2. Children were having a snowball fight on the street.
  3. Children were playing snowball on the street.
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I'm not a native speaker of English, but I'd stick to the expression have a snowball fight. There's no need to force something new, especially as a non-native speaker, when the existing expression occurs 25 times more frequently according to the Google Ngram Viewer. Throwing snowballs sounds perfectly fine as well, but is more evocative of the action of throwing (obviously), and doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as having a snowball fight, which necessarily involves multiple people, etc.:

I threw a snowball and it missed.


You also probably meant to write Children were throwing snowballs in the street., (might be a regional thing) but that's not the topic here.

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Your colleague was right.

Your second example sentence is best. The third is incorrect. The first is OK.

I slightly like this version of your second example better:

The children were on the street throwing snowballs.

As a veteran of many snowball fights in Illinois, I can tell you the deal.

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