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  1. #1
    Voytec Guest

    Default "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    Which one is corret "I can play A pano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    I can see that "I can play THE piano" is more often used, why?
    Use of "THE" in this case seems very strange to me.

    Please help me understand this, I always have a lot of problems with "a" and "the" as those are not present in my native language (Polish).
    Last edited by Voytec; 14-Mar-2005 at 19:21. Reason: A spelling mistake in the title

  2. #2
    ghmcal Guest

    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    THE is correct, although I understand your confusion. You were probably taught that "the" refers to one particular thing, but here it seems to refer to all the pianos in the world. Think about it carefully, though.

    If you say "I want a cat," what you are saying is that you want ONE cat, but you're not saying which one in particular. (Remember: "a" is the SINGULAR indefinite article.) So if you say "I can play a piano," you are saying that you can play ONE piano, but you're not saying which one in particular. Of course, that doesn't make sense: You can play any piano in the world, not just one. To say that you can play any piano in the world, you use "the." (My dictionary says that "the" "can be also be used before a singular noun to indicate that the noun is generic.")

    A couple of other examples, in case you need them:

    * The elephant is the largest land animal. (= Elephants, as a group, are the largest land animals.)

    * I enjoy the opera. (= I enjoy going to and listening to operas in general.)

    Good luck,
    George

  3. #3
    Voytec Guest

    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    Great thanks, thats a realy good explanation.

  4. #4
    silversea's Avatar
    silversea is offline Member
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    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    So, we can consider it a rule right? The is used before musical instruments such as play the guitar, or the violin

  5. #5
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    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghmcal
    THE is correct, although I understand your confusion. You were probably taught that "the" refers to one particular thing, but here it seems to refer to all the pianos in the world. Think about it carefully, though.

    If you say "I want a cat," what you are saying is that you want ONE cat, but you're not saying which one in particular. (Remember: "a" is the SINGULAR indefinite article.) So if you say "I can play a piano," you are saying that you can play ONE piano, but you're not saying which one in particular. Of course, that doesn't make sense: You can play any piano in the world, not just one. To say that you can play any piano in the world, you use "the." (My dictionary says that "the" "can be also be used before a singular noun to indicate that the noun is generic.")

    A couple of other examples, in case you need them:

    * The elephant is the largest land animal. (= Elephants, as a group, are the largest land animals.)

    * I enjoy the opera. (= I enjoy going to and listening to operas in general.)

    Good luck,
    George

    What about this: I can play piano. (Without any article, meaning I can play any piano in the world.)

  6. #6
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    No; if you're talking about the ability, use 'the':
    I can play football. (no article for sports)
    I can play the piano. (article used for musical instruments)

  7. #7
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    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    Welcome, George.

    That was a wonderful explanation. Additionally, what are your thoughts on the following distribution?

    I play the guitar.
    I play guitar.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: "I can play A piano" or "I can play THE piano"?

    Aha. 'The' is used when talking about ability, especially in front of musical instruments?)

    I thought I could say 'I can play bass or guitar' to mean I have the ability to play them( in general). However, one can use the article "the" here, but is not necessary so far as I know.



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