[General] play (the) piano

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jiamajia

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Do native speakers stick to the rule of inserting the definite article between 'play' and 'a musical instrument' while leaving the 'the' out when saying play basketball, football, so on and so forth?

Thank you.
 

emsr2d2

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Do native speakers stick to the rule of inserting the definite article between 'play' and 'a musical instrument' while leaving the 'the' out when saying play basketball, football, so on and so forth?

Thank you.

It's certainly always left out when talking about sport. With musical instruments, we use both.

I play the piano.
He plays violin in the school orchestra.
Do you play the cello?
No, but I play trumpet.

I would say that when we specify ability, we usually use "the".

I can play the piano.
Can you play the bassoon?
 

jiamajia

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Jul 15, 2010
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Student or Learner
It's certainly always left out when talking about sport. With musical instruments, we use both.

I play the piano.
He plays violin in the school orchestra.
Do you play the cello?
No, but I play trumpet.

I would say that when we specify ability, we usually use "the".

I can play the piano.
Can you play the bassoon?

Thank you. Our teachers are still setting test papers based on the rule. Maybe I should introduce this forum to them.
 

BobK

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It's certainly always left out when talking about sport. With musical instruments, we use both.

1 I play the piano.
2 He plays violin in the school orchestra.
3 Do you play the cello?
4 No, but I play trumpet.

I would say that when we specify ability, we usually use "the".

5 I can play the piano.
6 Can you play the bassoon?

:up: Of those 6 examples, all except 4 follow this practice: when referring to ability, insert 'the'; when referring to role in a group of some kind, omit it. I think this 'rule' was observed in Br Eng until fairly recently, but since the '50s some people in the UK have adopted the 'zero-alternative' - because it's trendy and sounds like a DJ (as DJs are always referring to a role: 'Paul played bass in the Beatles' (which encourages 'wannabe' bass-players to say 'I play bass').

b
 
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