EL Game Series (07): “Apples to Apples”

[Welcome to the EL game series. These posts are all short introductions to games you can play in the EL. Because learning to play games in English can take a long time, some posts will explain how to play simple versions of games. Other posts tell you why you should use games to practice English. You can also use the tags to find other posts you might be interested in.]



“Apples to Apples” is a very popular and very simple party game. And usually, it’s a very funny game, too.

The basics: There are two kinds of cards, red cards and green cards. Red cards have “things” written on them (commercials, a Venus fly trap, underdogs, etc.). Green cards have adjectives (angelic, aromatic, dim, etc.). One green card is put in the center of the table and each player puts a red card down next to it. A judge chooses the best matching red card, and that player gets a point.

For English Learners:

  • Do not try to play this game exactly as the instructions say! There are a LOT of difficult vocabulary words, jokes, and pop culture references that you probably won’t understand.
  • Do have a teacher or EL supporter sort out cards that are too difficult. Another option is to let players trade away cards they don’t understand.
  • Green cards are mostly very good, useful vocabulary. Focus on them more than the red cards.
  • Variation 1: Find an easy red card and put it in the middle of the table. Players get 5 green cards. Each player puts the best matching green card down and explains why they chose it (“A _____ is _____ because ____.”)
  • Variation 2: Put 6 green cards in the middle of the table. Players get 5 red cards. Use dictionaries or talk with each other so you understand your cards. Then, match one of your red cards to a green card on the table. Give your explanation (“A _____ is _____ because ____.”) and pick up the green card. Each green card is one point. You can get more cards if you are fast.
  • Variation 3: Just read the cards with your group. Many cards have interesting vocabulary or a joke on them. Can you understand the joke? Learning about humor can teach you about foreign culture, too.

Final Thoughts: This game is so popular that two EL teachers bought copies of it at the same time. However, because of the vocabulary and pop culture, I think you should focus less on playing a “game” and more on talking and learning about the interesting cards.