Imagine you are watching TV with your son and the volume is a bit low, and you want to ask him to turn it up. You could simply say

turn it up,

but is it okay to say:

Play it up.

Does it sound wrong, strange or awkward if I use it according to sense 11 below taken from a Cambridge dictionary.

10: [intransitive or transitive] to perform music on an instrument or instruments He learned to play the clarinet at the age of ten.

1: Play us a song!/Play a song for us!
2: On Radio London they play African and South American music as well as rock and pop.
3: They could hear a jazz band playing in the distance.
4: Play up a bit (= play louder) - I can hardly hear you!

11: [intransitive or transitive] to (cause a machine to) produce sound or a picture Play the last few minutes of the video again.
See also playback

  • 1
    Good question, but try to format it better in future. You can find some help here.
    – Max
    Nov 7, 2013 at 13:12

3 Answers 3


Yes, it would sound wrong, strange and awkward to use play it up to mean turn it up. In England and the rest of the UK, people don't normally do that because turn it up, is already in widespread use. This is usually used when someone wants to increase the sound coming from a television or radio but, can also be used regarding other devices.

Sometimes, some people use alternatives which are, turn up the volume or, turn up the sound.

  • Can you elaborate further on this answer? You're correct of course, but your answer would be even more useful if you could give some surrounding context or explain why this is the case :)
    – WendiKidd
    Nov 8, 2013 at 3:36

In the sentence, "Turn it up", "it" refers to the volume. That is, "Turn the volume up." I presume we say "turn it up" because 50 or 100 years ago volume was controlled by a knob on the radio, record player, or whatever, and you would turn the knob to increase the volume. I suppose in another generation people will wonder why dragging the volume slider on a digital pad is called "turning".

If you say "play it up", what does "it" refer to? "Play the volume up" doesn't make sense. You play the song, you don't play the volume. "Play the song up" doesn't make sense (at least not the sense you're looking for). What is it that is going "up"?

As Choster says, to "play something up" is an idiom meaning to emphasize it or exaggerate it. Like you might say, "The last guy we interviewed really played up his marketing experience", meaning, he talked a lot about it, called attention to it, maybe exaggerated it. So someone might say, "The radio station really played that song up", meaning they broadcast it frequently or the DJs praised it highly. But that would have nothing to do with the volume.

  • I am really satisfied with the answers, and what I like most is Jay's logical reasoning and this is why I commented.
    – learner
    Nov 7, 2013 at 17:22

Turn it up is correct here. For example

Could you turn down/up the volume please.

I think turn here is referring to the old-fashioned/ Non digital players, where you turn the knob to adjust the volume. But it is definitely used for tv remotes also.

Play it up might work, but I am not sure as I am a non-native speaker.For example

Play up the song.

But I will definitely use turn it up over it.

  • 3
    Most commonly, to play sth. up is to call attention to, accentuate, or exaggerate it. A sales clerk might play up the features of a new gadget and downplay its costs, for example. Macmillan lists an additional meaning of causing difficulties or pain, but in the U.S. we would say act up in those situations.
    – choster
    Nov 7, 2013 at 15:22

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