to play it by ear

Idiom Definition

"to play it by ear"

to react to and respond to a situation without having a preconceived plan

Idiom Definition - to play it by ear


Related words and phrases:

Idiom Scenario 1

Idiom Definition - to play it by ear

Two coworkers are talking about an upcoming meeting with their boss ...

Worker 1:  Do you know what the meeting is about?

Worker 2:  I have no idea.

Worker 1:  Man, I hate not being able to prepare.  How will we know what to do or say in the meeting?

Worker 2:  There's no way to prepare for the unknown.  We'll simply have to play it by ear.

Idiom Scenario 2

Idiom Definition - to play it by ear

A husband and wife are talking about an important doctor's appointment they have the next day ...

Husband:  What time do you want to leave in the morning?

Wife:  How bad will traffic be?

Husband:  Tomorrow is Wednesday so it shouldn't be so bad.

Wife:  What route will we take?

Husband:   Well, that is hard to say just now.  We'll have to listen to the traffic report on the radio and then play it by ear.

Wife:  OK.  Just remember how important this appointment is.

to play it by ear - Usage:


to play it by ear - Gerund Form:

Playing it by ear can be difficult and nerve-wracking.

to play it by ear - Examples:

1)  I play it by ear when unpredictable situations occur.

2)  You play it by ear when you do not have time to prepare.

3)  He plays meetings by ear all the time.

4)  She plays her dates by ear never really knowing what the conversation will be about.

5)  The government plays it by ear when it comes to social reform policy.

6)  We play negotiations by ear when it is difficult to predict the other party's reactions.

7)  You (all) play it by ear when playing against a new team.

8)  They play it by ear when they take vacations.

9)  Playing it by ear sounds like a good bet at this stage.

10)  I will be firmer in my invites to set a schedule. Playing it by ear may not be such a good thing.

11)  Again, it's a case of playing it by ear when choosing whether to bring in an additional source.

12)  The company, by looking overseas, is basically playing it by ear, but has been encouraged by summer collaborations.

13)  I am sort of playing it by ear and learning as I go.

14)  On the final stretch of the trip we were playing it by ear as to which National Parks we would check out on our way into Las Vegas.

15)  We're kind of playing it by ear until we get firm information on logistics for this.

16)  We gave him his last bottle at 8.30 then played it by ear if he woke.

17)  I read up on how to prepare the tofu kind of played it by ear from there.

18)  If you are unsure, play it by ear and follow along with the rest of the audience.

19)  Just depends how you go I guess, if you can play it by ear.... Might be the best. 

20)  He'd cross that bridge when he came to it; play it by ear; make it up as he went along.