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The boy is playing [a/the] guitar ???

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The boy is playing [a/the] guitar ???

Unread postby khairulhn » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:39 am

Hi,

I'm marking exam papers for my primary pupils. The pupils have to make a sentence base on a picture shown. A picture shows a boy playing a guitar. If you could please check some of the answer that can be used.

1. The boy is playing guitar.
2. The boy is playing the guitar.
3. The boy is playing a guitar.

I am not sure about the 1st answer. Please advice.
Thank you.

Khairul
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Re: Grammar problems.

Unread postby markshepherd » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:19 am

Hi Khairul!

The first answer is fine, as it is talking about the concept of 'guitar playing'. It is closest in meaning to one of the meanings of the 2nd answer, which also treats 'guitar playing' as a concept. The other meaning of the 2nd answer refers to the specific guitar in the picture.

Regards

Mark
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Re: Grammar problems.

Unread postby Syl » Thu Apr 15, 2010 10:21 pm

Sorry to disagree, Mark...

but the second answer is perfectly correct. One of the entries for "play" (Oxford Dictionary) says:

MUSIC
10 ~ (sth) (on sth)| ~ sth (to sb) ~ sb sth to perform on a musical instrument; to perform music: [vn] to play the piano / violin / flute, etc.

THE is right, and I may understand your question. It's a convention that "the" relates to one particular thing, but here it is more likely to relate to all the guitars in the world.

And Khairul,

If you say "I want a sandwich," what you are trying to say is that you want ONE sandwich, but you are not saying which one in particular. (Remember: "a" is the SINGULAR indefinite article.) So if you say "I can play a guitar," you are saying that you can play ONE guitar, but you are not saying which one in particular. Of course, that doesn't make sense: You can play any guitar in the world, not just one. To say that you can play any guitar in the world, you use "the."

Syl:)

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Re: Grammar problems.

Unread postby Josef » Sat May 15, 2010 10:42 am

2 and 3 are both possible
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Re: The boy is playing [a/the] guitar ???

Unread postby Syl » Sat May 15, 2010 2:00 pm

EC, I have never heard anyone saying "I can play a guitar", but if you say so.. that's fine for me. It sounds weird, though...

Best,
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Re: The boy is playing [a/the] guitar ???

Unread postby babygirladdy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:46 pm

I would suggest adding option "D: all of the above" to the test, because all of the answers are correct. "The boy is playing guitar" and "The boy is playing the guitar" have the same meaning.

"The boy is playing a guitar" is also correct despite the "a = one" problem someone pointed out, because the boy can not help but play *only one* guitar at a time. As a noun, the object itself being played IS... a guitar.

Usually, "a/an" implies one (at times, of many), and "the" implies a specific one (of many). Musical instruments are a slightly different case as they can be treated as a concept or as a noun.

I do agree that the first two options treat "guitar playing" as a concept. The last option treats "a guitar" as a simple noun.

I don't agree with the example "I can play a guitar" at all. It IS incorrect for the reasons stated with the example, but the sentence itself is in a completely different context and the rules for one can not apply to the rules for the other. "I can play" and "I am playing" are not the same concept at all and the rules for the two uses of "play" are different. The rules for this would also change if you were elaborating on the *kind* of guitar: "The boy is playing an electric guitar."
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