= to make a problem seem less serious than it really is
e.g. The government played down the threat to public health after the radiation leak from the nuclear accident.

Transcript Below

Hello! I’m Luke Thompson and this is a Phrasal verb a day and in this episode I’m going to teach you the phrasal verb “to play down”… to play down…play something down. It’s a transitive verb, so it needs an object – to play something down. And this means to…if you play something down it means you try to make it sound less important or less serious. Usually it’s a problem. There is a problem and you try to make a problem seem less important or less serious.

Let’s have a look at the screen here, so this is the Macmillan Dictionary online. Macmillandictionary.com, this is their definition of play down. Let’s have a look at that more closely if we can. And here it is “play down” and it says: “to try to make a problem or difficult situation seem less important than it is”.

For example: “At first the government played down the threat to public health”. Ok. So may be that if we expand on that example, that would mean there was some sort of big problem maybe let’s say there was an industrial accident. Let’s say, for example, a nuclear power station. There was a leak at the nuclear power station, let’s say, and, you know, radiation leaked out and the government made a statement to the media trying to make it seem less serious, trying to make problem seem smaller than it actually was, so the government tried to play down the threat of the leak to public health. Ok.

You try to play down a problem. Just try to play it down a bit. For example, let’s say, your friend gets sick and it’s obviously he is sick and you keep seeing him and he seems to be unwell and you say to your other friends like: “You sure John is ok? He seems to be sick, you know, and he keeps playing it down, but I wonder about his health.” Ok

Here we go: to play something down. There will be another one of these coming your way pretty soon, but for now for this episode a phrasal verb a day that’s it. Except for one thing. Go to the website. Teacherluke.co.uk. In fact let’s have a look at that. Here you go Teacherluke.co.uk and click on “a phrasal verb a day” and than you can see the entire archive of every single episode of a phrasal verb a day. They are all audio, this one is a video, but you can get access to all of the episodes by going to teacherluke.co.uk than click “a phrasal verb a day”, episode archive, they are all there. They are also on itunes and stuff like that too. So there you go. All right. Thanks for listening, thanks for watching, speak to you again soon. Good bye.