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play it by ear

play it by ear

Date: Oct 29 2015

Themes: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Sports


1. Quote - Listen to the quote and guess what the slang means.

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“Of course I want to win, but I just want to finish each race as well as possible. Is that top 20? Top 15? I just have to play it by ear.”

Race car driver Danica Patrick, talking about how she tries to win a race (BrainyQuote)


1. Definition - Study the definition.

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have no plan; figure out what one is doing as it happens

2. Use - Learn how the slang is used.

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Let’s say that you slept for too long, and now you realize that you are going to be late for school. So you jump out of bed, put on some clothes, and run out the door. You make it in class just in time, and you see the teacher is handing out a test. Oh, no! You forgot to study. It looks like you’re going to have to play it by ear.

To play it by ear means to figure out how to do something while you are doing it. There is no time to plan ahead. The expression comes from when musicians have to play an instrument, but they do not have music to read. They have to use their ears to play correctly. There are many situations in daily life when we have to play it by ear, like going to job interviews or meeting new people.

Race car driver Danica Patrick says that when it comes to racing, she just likes to play it by ear. She doesn’t say, “I am going to get first place.” She just does her best and hopes it goes well.

Do you normally like to play it by ear, or do you prefer to make plans?


1. Examples - Hear some example sentences.

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“I’m not sure what we’re going to do in New York. We’re just going to play it by ear.”

“When it comes to dating, I just like to play it by ear.”

“John decided that he wasn’t going to write a speech for his brother’s wedding. He was just going to play it by ear.”


1. Winners - See who guessed the slang definition correctly.

to let whatever happens without planning.
by La Princesse de la vie
aijaciba To improvise.
by aijaciba

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There are people who can play it by ear whatever they gonna do and they succeed but this kind of fortune doesn’t work with everybody.
For instance my friend often plays it by ear and he’s ok 👍🏻

01:08 PM Jan 18 2016 |

La Princesse de la vie


Well, I kind of like things to go on an organised basis, I’m not good at improvising, because such situations, when I’m encountered by a fact that things are not going as they’re planned for, I begin to freak out and I can’t get my head around how to tackle things right. So I never play it by ear.

01:20 PM Oct 30 2015 |




recently i accustom to play it by ear, because in my new job you need change your plans in everytime.

05:34 PM Oct 29 2015 |




From what I understand from the dialoge, I play by ear when thing happens without any plan then I deal with this situation by acting automatically. 

Frankly I don’t remember a thing happened to play it by ear, but its good to know this a new slang.

Thank you.

05:01 PM Oct 29 2015 |



United States

I love playing things buy ear. It fun.

11:53 AM Oct 29 2015 |

rabindra shrestha


I was drummer some years ago with my local band in my country Nepal. we always played music in bar and restaurant and We played music that always by the ear. But we little bit prefer to make plans before programe.

But i love to play it by ear. I think everybody know very well, Better to play that by the ear you know it give us really good feel. It just in my opinion.  

04:33 AM Oct 29 2015 |




Uhmm.. well, I always prefer to make plans, but sometimes I play it by ear to know how it feels, lol. However, it’s a rare case for me.

12:08 AM Oct 29 2015 |

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