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pull strings

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To use personal connections to obtain a position: “Pat was officially interviewed for the job, but he also had his uncle pulling strings behind the scenes.” This phrase makes reference to the operation of string-controlled puppets, or marionettes.

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QUIZ YOURSELF ON "WAS" VS. "WERE"!
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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pull strings

Also, pull wires. Use one's influence, as in By pulling strings he got us house seats to the opening, or His father pulled some wires and got him out of jail. Both terms allude to manipulating a marionette. The first dates from the second half of the 1800s, the second from the early 1800s.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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