[PHRASAL VERB] V P n
If you play on someone's fears, weaknesses, or faults, you deliberately use them in order to persuade that person to do something, or to achieve what you want. (= exploit)
- an election campaign which plays on the population's fear of change.
CF. play (up)on something
1. Lit. to make music on a musical instrument. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.)
- Can you play upon this instrument, or only the one you are holding?
- I can't play on this! It's broken.
- Shall we play on the floor or on the table?
- Let's play on the field. It's dry enough now.
- You are just playing on words!
- You are playing on a misunderstanding.
- The reflections of the candles played on the surface of the wall.
- The lights played on the crystal goblets.