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When I describe my hobbies, should I write

I play piano

or

I play the piano

Are both forms acceptable? And how would you handle the phrase

I am an amateur musician, playing the saxophone, guitar and piano.

Should there be three "the" or only one? or none?

  • Since your question is about the use of articles, and since I see no prepositions in your sentences, I changed the tag for you. Feel free to roll back the edit if you do want to ask something about prepositions instead :) – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 12:47
  • Indeed, sorry :) – yohbs Jun 2 '14 at 12:49
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    As an Englishman, omitting the article, per your example "I play piano", sounds very American to my ear. – 568ml Jun 2 '14 at 13:00
  • Language log discussed the similar issue of the difference playing a violin and playing the violin, which are both correct and have subtly different meanings. – bdsl Jun 2 '14 at 13:10
  • @568ml: Switching between US/UK corpuses in Google NGramns doesn't suggest the more recent but still less common "article-less" usage is any more or less likely to occur on either side of the pond. It certainly has no particularly "American" edge to me - but I do kinda feel "professional" musicians are probably the main ones promoting the usage. – FumbleFingers Jun 2 '14 at 13:15
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Both are acceptable, but saying "I play the piano" sounds a bit better. The same goes for the other instruments as far as I am concerned.

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  • So you would write "... playing the saxophone, the guitar and the piano"? – yohbs Jun 2 '14 at 12:58
  • Yes definitely. "He plays saxophone", "I love playing guitar" etc... But as I said, the other is definitely not incorrect. "He plays the saxophone" sounds all right too. Especially if the context were: "What instrument does he play?" "He plays the saxophone". – DHinch Jun 2 '14 at 13:03
  • @yohbs: It's entirely a stylistic choice whether you include the article at all in your "three-instrument" example. And if you do decide to use it (I personally normally wouldn't), it's again purely a style issue as to whether to repeat the article every time (and again, I normally wouldn't). – FumbleFingers Jun 2 '14 at 13:19

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