How to Play Catch Phrase

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Catch Phrase Rules & Instructions

catch phrase



  • Any number, divided into two evenly sized teams


  • Electronic Catch Phrase device or a large quantity of paper slips with words/phrases written on them


  • When the timer expires, the team not  guessing earns a point
  • The game ends when one team reaches a certain number of points (typically 7)


    Using charades or verbal clues, try to guess the word displayed/drawn and pass it to the other team so that when time is up, you aren’t trying to guess.


    If you don’t have the Catch Phrase device, take some time to either find a collection of words online, or have each person come up with a certain number of words or short, well-known phrases (i.e. “the bees knees”). Put them into a container for both teams to pull from and agree on a length of time for each round. Divide into two teams and sit with your team. At the beginning of each round, both teams will select a clue-giver and choose which team goes first. 

    When the timer starts, the first clue-giver will read the word they draw and try to get their team to guess it using charades or verbal clues that do not include the word itself, a word that rhymes with the clue, the letter that the clue begins with, the number of syllables in the word, or any part of the word/phrase. If the clue-giver breaks this, they can skip to a new word.

    Once the team successfully guesses the clue, the other team will draw a clue and begin to guess. Everytime a team guesses correctly, the other team will draw a new clue. When the timer runs out, the team that is guessing loses the round and the other team is awarded a point. The timer is reset, new clue-givers are chosen for each team, and a new round begins.


    Once a team reaches 7 points by winning 7 rounds, that team wins!

    Catch Phrase Variations and Alternate Rules

    Word Selection: The official Catch Phrase library has 10,000 words in it, but you can narrow it down to fit certain topics or categories like geography, food and drink, etc.

    Elimination: If you have a large number of people, instead of two large teams you can break the group into teams of two. Each team will have a clue-giver and a guesser. When the timer starts, play begins as normal with the container/device being passed from team to team as the players guess the clues. When the timer expires, the team guessing earns a point (or loses a life). When a team earns a certain number of points or loses all of their “lives” by losing rounds, they are eliminated and sit out for the rest of the game, which continues until one team wins.

      Catch Phrase Tips & Strategy

      Like charades or fish bowl, time is of the essence, try to give clues efficiently so that your team doesn’t get stuck with the device/container at the end of the round


        What if the timer goes off when the device is being passed?

        With a Catch Phrase device, hot potato rules are used. That means that even if one team guesses correctly, if the device is still in their clue-giver’s hands when time expires, they lose the round. If you’re using a container of paper slips, you can play that once a team answers correctly, the next team is up and would lose if the time expires or that their turn doesn’t start until they draw a word. Either way, be sure everyone agrees before starting!

        What if both clue-givers have their hands on the device?

        Tie goes to the receiver of the device and their team earns a point.

        If I don’t have a Catch Phrase device, where can I find a good selection of words to use?

        There are several websites you can find with a quick Google search that offer PDF lists of words. If these aren’t long enough, you can always try using a random word generator.

        writer colin tichvon

        Colin Tichvon | Writer

        A Yahtzee enthusiast and card shark in the making. Though his favorites are euchre and cribbage, Colin loves to try new games and share them with others.

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