Two can play at that game

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Grammarist

Two can play at that game is an idiom with an uncertain origin. We will examine the meaning of the common saying two can play at that game, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Two can play at that game is a phrase that means if someone harms you, you intend to harm them in return. For instance, if someone cheats you in business, you may find a way to also cheat him in business. Two can play at that game is a statement of intent to retaliate in kind. When someone says two can play at that game, he feels justified in his actions. The phrase became popular in the mid-1800s. The origin of the expression two can play at that game is unclear; it seems reasonable to assume it is a quotation from a long-forgotten book or play because of its theatrical and literary flair.

Examples

While the PLAAF continues to launch aggressive flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), it appears that two can play at that game. (Asia Times)

Last year, proving two can play at that game, the Guild itself conducted and published a pay study at the paper that found that the company was underpaying younger women and people of color, occasioning hasty assurancesthat management would act after the study hit the news. (Columbia Journalism Review)

One is a simple retaliation—if you’re trying to talk to someone, and they’re on their phone, well, two can play at that game. (The Atlantic)

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