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English definition of “play”

play

verb     /pleɪ/
have money/time, etc. to play with to have money, time, etc. available to use: Swelling tax receipts have given the government more money to play with over the last two years.
play by the rules to obey the rules of a particular system: Workers should not be relegated to poverty if they work hard and play by the rules.
play by your own rules to do things in the way that you want, rather than obeying the rules of a particular system: Large multinational corporations often play by their own rules.
play catch up to try to be as successful as other people, companies, etc.: The firm has adapted quickly to changes in the global market, leaving its rivals to play catch up.
play for high stakes to take big risks in order to achieve something that you really want: The Prime Minister is playing for high stakes, at the risk of alienating public opinion.
play (it) safe to decide not to take risks: The federal government often plays it safe by funding research that is likely to succeed but may have only a slight impact. The biggest companies usually play safe and hire top legal firms from London or New York.
play the (money/stock) market FINANCE to trade shares, bonds, etc., especially in order to make money quickly, rather than to invest over a longer period: Spread betting companies offer an opportunity for private individuals to play the stock market.
play a key/major/important role/part (in sth) (also have a key/major/important role/part to play (in sth)) to have a lot of power or influence in a particular situation: His financial expertise played a major role in London City airport's development. IT had a key part to play in modernizing the organization.
play the system to use a set of rules or laws in order to get an advantage for yourself, in a way that may not be fair: If you know how to play the system, there are various legal loopholes to be exploited.
play to your strengths to do things that you know you are good at: In business, you sometimes have to follow your instincts and play to your strengths.
→ See also plug-and-play™ adjective, play sth back, play sth down, play out, play sth up
(Definition of play verb from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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