Play it by Ear or Year: Which is Correct?

If you’re not sure whether to use “play it by ear” or “play it by year,” here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right phrase.

In short, “play it by year” is an incorrect version of this phrase. The correct expression is “play it by ear.”

Play it by Ear

“Play it by ear” is a phrase that originated from the world of music.

In music, “play it by ear” means playing a song on a musical instrument by listening to it, without using notes or chords to guide you. A skilled musician may be able to play a melody by memory because they are very familiar with the instrument.

The phrase “play it by ear” also means to do something without planning or preparing in advance.

You can use this phrase to talk about making spontaneous decisions or improvising. This means that you decide how to deal with situations as they develop instead of making strict plans.

Play it by Ear Synonyms

There are a few different ways to say “play it by ear” and still convey the same meaning. Here are some examples:

Examples of Sentences With “Play It by Ear”

Here are some examples of how you might use this phrase:

  • We didn’t have any specific plans for the public holiday, so we just played it by ear.
  • I’m not sure what I want to do after graduation, so I’m just going to play it by ear and apply for many different opportunities.
  • The musician listened to the song on Youtube before playing it by ear on the piano.
  • I don’t know how to make this recipe, so I’ll just have to play it by ear.
  • I don’t know how the company will handle the new price, so we’ll just have to play it by ear and see what happens.
  • Do you want to plan our date night, or should we just play it by ear?
  • Rather than designing a lesson plan for the study group, the teacher decided to play it by ear.
  • The pianist forgot to bring the music sheet, so he played the tune by ear.
  • The musician didn’t have time to rehearse, so he just played it by ear during the performance.
  • I am not sure about this relationship, so I’m just going to play it by ear and see how it goes.
  • I like to be well prepared for everything, while my partner advocates the idea of playing it by ear.

“Play It By Year”

The phrase “play it by year” is incorrect because the word “year” doesn’t make sense in this context.

It is not uncommon to mishear “play it by ear” as “year,” making this a popular question in English language forums.

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In Conclusion

If you’re still unsure which phrase to use, remember that it’s “play it by ear,” not “year.” This phrase means to do something without planning or preparing in advance.

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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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