People say "play innocent" or "play dead" to mean "pretend to be innocent" or "pretend to be dead" respectively.

Can we apply that way of saying to the adjective "nice"?

Does "play nice" mean "pretend to be nice"?

  • 4
    No. "to play nice" is an idiom. It means to behave without causing trouble.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 8, 2023 at 11:19
  • There is no pretending in play nice.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2023 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


'Play nice' is an idiom. It means to not cause trouble; to play without arguing; share your toys.

It's a common expression for a parent to children who are squabbling.
As noted in comments - if this is said to adults, it often implies they are being childish.

I suppose strictly, it perhaps ought to be 'play nicely' but no-one ever really says that.

  • 1
    Good answer. I would add that, when said to adults, it often implies that they are being childish.
    – Astralbee
    Sep 8, 2023 at 13:01
  • 1
    Had to remove my upvote when I got to your last sentence. If no one ever says it, then the "strict" rule was made up, by a bozo. Sep 8, 2023 at 17:02
  • @TimR - Seems an odd reason to remove the vote… like "Think Different". Americans didn't mind it, it drove Brits bananas. It should be an adverb, but no-one ever does it correct. :P Sep 8, 2023 at 17:05
  • Adverbing weirds language.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 8, 2023 at 17:15
  • @ColinFine - ermmm… whut?? I know each of those words, but they don't seem to add up to anything meaningful. Sep 8, 2023 at 17:17

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