Basic English Usage
You must read the words and phrases out loud.
play ~ act, behave, participate (and more)
play it by ear = deal with it when we have to deal with it (don't prepare ahead of time) [probable origin: A musician does not have the sheet music, so she has to play the song by ear.]
We don't know what our customers will ask about when we get there. We will just have to play it by ear.
play it safe = be cautious
If our customers ask about the new service, we should play it safe and not promise more than we know we can deliver.
play ball = cooperate by doing something the way someone wants you to do it
That customer asked for an extended warranty: we should probably play ball and find a way to give them what they want.
pull ~ manipulate, do, struggle (and more)
pull strings = use your influence with important people to get something done
We may have to pull strings to get Lily on our project team, because her supervisor doesn't have much faith in our project.
pull it off = accomplish, despite difficulties
With Lily on the team, we are much more likely to pull it off and have a successful project.
pull through = survive, despite difficulties
Without Lily, it's possible me might pull through, but I have my doubts.
brainstorm = generate new ideas
You ask everyone to attend a meeting in which you will all brainstorm to find a new solution to a known problem. Lily says: We can "come up with" new ideas. Lee says: We can "think up" new ideas. Lucy says: We can "toss ideas around". Lin says: We can "put our heads together". But you prefer to say: We can "brainstorm".
Lesson: Expressions 4
Course: Basic English Usage