14 Phrasal Verbs with Play



  1. Play about
  2. Play along
  3. Play around
  4. Play at
  5. Play away
  6. Play back
  7. Play down
  8. Play off
  9. Play off against
  10. Play on
  11. Play out
  12. Play up
  13. Play up to
  14. Play with

Play about
to behave in a silly way

  • Stop playing about and do your homework!

Play along
to perform a piece of music at the same time as it is playing elsewhere

  • I learnt to play the piano by playing along with my mother’s old records.

to pretend to agree with or cooperate with someone, generally for a limited period of time, and in order to get what you want or to avoid an argument

  • Sarah doesn’t want to go out tonight; she is just playing along with Brian to avoid an argument.

Play around
to cheat on a partner

  • I can’t believe that my boyfriend was playing around with my best friend!

to consider different possibilities before making a decision

  • We played around with many ideas before making a concrete decision.

to behave in a foolish or irresponsible way

  • You shouldn’t play around with other people’s feelings.

Play at

to pretend to do something or to be somebody

  • The children were playing at Superheroes all morning.

to do something in an informal way or not taking it seriously

  • Sam is only playing at being an actor, he’s really studying to be a doctor.

Play away
when a sports team play at an opponent’s ground

  • Our team never have good luck when they play away.

to cheat on a partner

  • Men tend to play away more than women.

Play back
to watch or listen to something that has been recorded

  • I had to play the voice message back several times before I could make out what he was saying.

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Play down
to try to make a problem or bad situation seem less important than it is

  • The company is trying to play down the fact that their product causes environmental damage.

Play off
to play an extra match in order to decide which team wins after a draw

  • The teams have to play off next week to decide who will win the Champions League this year.

Play off against
to cause an argument or competition between two people in order to gain some advantage in the situation

  • Veronica is playing Bill and Gavin off against each other so that they will both shower her with expensive gifts.

Play on

to exploit a situation or emotions in order to get what you want

  • Harry definitely plays on the fact that he was sick as a child to get everything he wants from his parents.

to continue to play a game, especially after the game has been interrupted for some reason

  • We played on despite the torrential rain.

Play out
to develop or end in a particular way

  • I don’t think you should make any changes to the organization’s structure until you see how the new teams play out.

Play up
to behave badly

  • The children have been playing up all day; I’m exhausted!

to not function properly

  • My computer has been playing up recently, I better back up my work.

to try to convince people that something is better or more important than it actually is

  • The pharmaceutical companies are really playing up the dangers of not getting immunized in order to sell more vaccines.

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Play up to
to flatter someone or behave in a certain way in order to get them to like you or to get them to do something for you

  • Mark is really playing up to the new boss in the hope that he will get a promotion.

Play with
to think about or consider something briefly

  • I played with the idea of moving to Los Angeles but I decided against it in the end.

to move or handle something repeatedly

  • Catherine plays with her hair when she is nervous.

to tease or joke with someone

  • Don’t take everything so seriously! I was only playing with you!

to treat inconsiderately

  • Richard always plays with the emotions of his girlfriends.

to use things, usually words or ideas, in different ways in order to produce an interesting or funny effect

  • The way that Jim plays with words is fantastic; he should be a writer!
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