Results 1 to 2 of 2
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Japanese
      • Home Country:
      • Japan
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: May 2004
    • Posts: 39
    • Post Thanks / Like

    "play to"

    Dear Teachers,

    I am still not sure of the meaning of the expression "play to," even though I have asked this question once before. It seems to me that there are two meanings, namely, 1) to try to please or win over, as in, "play to the gallery," and 2) to take advantage of, as in "Saddam Hussein played to religion." Am I correct?

    Thank you.


    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 902
    • Post Thanks / Like

    Re: "play to"

    Yes, more or less. But your second meaning is a consequence of the first. Literally "play to" means "appeal to".

    "I played to their patriotism" -- I appealed to their patriotism so that they would support me. OR I did everything I could not to insult their patriotism. OR My actions made their patriotic nature happy.

    "To take advantage of" can be expressed more directly by "play on". In coming to power, Hitler played on economic insecurity and ethnic intolerance. The military buildup played on the population's fears of conquest.

    There is also the expression "prey on", which carries your second meaning very strongly.

    "I preyed on their patriotism" -- I made their patriotism work to my advantage, whether what I did was to their advantage or not.

    PS "To prey on" has the usual direct meaning of "to act as a predator upon [the prey]". The wolf preys on the sheep. "The preacher preyed on young women in his adoring flock" -- from the Telegraph.
    Last edited by abaka; 30-Jan-2009 at 01:08. Reason: added postscript and "play on"

Similar Threads

  1. "agree to" vs. "is agreed to"
    By imchongjun in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 26-Feb-2008, 11:59
  2. "apply to" or be applied to"
    By joycewhl in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-Apr-2007, 02:38
  3. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 30-Mar-2007, 15:21
  4. "ought to" or "have to"?
    By alrod in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 05-Feb-2007, 12:04
  5. "Relating to" vs "Related to"
    By hookeba in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 19-Jan-2007, 10:05


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts