pull strings

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Verb[edit]

pull strings (third-person singular simple present pulls strings, present participle pulling strings, simple past and past participle pulled strings)

  1. (intransitive, idiomatic) To manipulate a situation, especially by asking favours of others; to use one's influence with others to attain a desired goal.
    He has the job not because of talent, but because his dad pulled strings with the boss.
  2. (intransitive, idiomatic, often with “the” or a possessive adjective (such as “his”) before “strings”) To control a person, organization, or situation by operating behind the scenes, as a puppeteer controls a marionette.
    • 1986, Metallica, “Master of Puppets” (song), in Master of Puppets (album): 
      Master of Puppets, I'm pulling your strings
    • 1992, Richard Berke, "The 1992 Campaign: Political Memo," New York Times, 3 April (retrieved 18 July 2010):
      Mr. Brown is touchy about accusations that he is a packaged candidate, and bristles at the suggestion that Mr. Caddell pulls his strings.
    • 2003, Michael Elliott et al., "The War That Never Ends," Time, 7 July:
      "It may have begun that way," says a senior Pentagon official, "but as these attacks grow more numerous, you get the sense that there's someone pulling the strings at a higher level."
    • 2011 September 29, Jon Smith, “Tottenham 3 - 1 Shamrock Rovers”, BBC Sport:
      But with the lively Dos Santos pulling the strings behind strikers Pavlyuchenko and Defoe, Spurs controlled the first half without finding the breakthrough their dominance deserved.

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