Understanding the Phrasal Verb 'Play Up': Usage Across Various Contexts

The English language is abundant with phrasal verbs that can often be perplexing for learners due to their idiomatic nature. One such phrase that sees versatile use across various domains is 'play up'. Typically, 'play up' means to exaggerate or give undue emphasis to a particular feature, issue, or trait. It can also mean to behave or function in an exaggerated or troublesome manner. Let's explore how this phrase integrates itself into diverse topics such as business, marketing, and more.


In the world of business, employees and managers may 'play up' certain aspects of a product or service when trying to make a sale or during a business presentation.

"Our sales team decided to play up the sustainability features of our new product line to appeal to eco-conscious consumers."

Additionally, within a business context, machinery or technology can 'play up,' meaning it is malfunctioning or not operating as it should.

"The photocopier is playing up again; it may be time to call the technician."


Marketers often 'play up' the benefits of a product or service in their campaigns to grab the attention of potential customers.

"The latest ad campaign really plays up the phone's battery life to stand out against the competition."


Speakers and writers might 'play up' stories of challenge and triumph to provide inspiration and motivation to their audience.

"In her motivational speech, she played up her underdog story to inspire the young athletes."


Effective leaders may 'play up' their team's strengths when giving feedback or during performance reviews to boost morale and confidence.

"The manager played up the team's creativity and resilience during a challenging quarter to maintain high spirits."

New York

When promoting tourism or events in New York, one might 'play up' the city's iconic landmarks and vibrant culture.

"The tourism board played up New York's Broadway shows and diverse culinary scene in its new international ad campaign."


Productivity gurus may 'play up' the importance of certain strategies or tools to help people optimize their workflow and output.

"The productivity coach played up the significance of the Pomodoro technique in managing time effectively."


In psychology, professionals might observe a patient 'playing up' their symptoms for various reasons, such as seeking attention or resources.

"During the assessment, the psychologist noted that the client was playing up their level of distress."


Financial experts may 'play up' market trends or a specific investment's potential gains during analysis or client advisement.

"The financial advisor played up the potential returns of the real estate investment trust during the seminar."

Personal Development

In personal development literature, the concept of 'playing up' one’s strengths is often highlighted as a key for personal growth and success.

"The self-help book played up the importance of knowing and leveraging your personal strengths."


Career coaches advise job candidates to 'play up' relevant experiences and skills on their resumes and during interviews.

"During our mock interview, the coach suggested that I play up my project management experience to align with the job's requirements."

The phrasal verb 'play up' adds a nuanced layer of meaning in various contexts. Mastering its use can significantly enhance communication, making it particularly valuable to learners and professionals alike. Whether it’s to emphasize a trait, draw attention to a malfunction, or inspire greatness, 'play up' is a dynamic expression worth integrating into one's linguistic repertoire.