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Please tell me how they are different.

Q: What is he doing?

A: 1. He is playing the cards.

2. He is playing cards.

I think there a rule of specificity by inference where something is considered definite by the circumstance or inference and I wonder if the above situations fit that rule.

eg, I am drinking the water.

I am opening the door.

I am somewhat confused as to how much and far can a person extend this application and in fact, I am not so sure of its general concept.
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Hi,





Please tell me how they are different.

Q: What is he doing?

A: 1. He is playing the cards.

2. He is playing cards.

I think there a rule of specificity by inference where something is considered definite by the circumstance or inference and I wonder if the above situations fit that rule.

#2 is the standard, idiomatic phrase. It's a general statement. #1 is not something that would ever be heard, in my opinion.

eg, I am drinking the water. This means you are drinking specific water , . . . the water in that glass.

I am opening the door. The form 'I am opening door' is not grammatical, although you can say 'I am opening doors', as with 'playing cards' above.

I am somewhat confused as to how much and far can a person extend this application and in fact, I am not so sure of its general concept. I'm reluctant to try to discuss general rules for articles because, as you know, it's a tricky subject. I note that the articles elsewhere in your post are all used correctly, so you are certainly not making errors that interfere with your ability to communicate effectively.Emotion: smile

Best wishes, Clive
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I have a horrible feeling that what I am going to say is just going to confuse you even more. I'm sorry if my explanation is not good.

In sentence 2 'cards' is a noun meaning 'a card game' - not the cards themselves but the game played with them. So sentence 2 is analagous to 'he is playing soccer' or 'he is playing Monopoly'. It's fine.

In sentence 1 'cards' is a noun meaning the actual physical cards themselves. We don't ever say 'playing the noun'. we say 'playing with the noun'. 'The dog is playing with the squeaky toy' not 'the dog is playing the squeaky toy'. The boy is playing with the lego. The woman is playing with her hair.

So, 'he is playing with the cards' would be correct although it suggests that he is fiddling around with them rather than playing a card game.
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Hi Nona,

I think I am faintly aware of what you are saying about with the phrase 'playing with', but how would you support your argument with this? Violin is a noun, isn't it?

I am playing the violin.
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Ah you've got me there. Emotion: smileWe do play instruments directly.

However, there is still a difference. You could say 'he is playing the violin' - he is using the violin to make music. 'he is playing with the violin' - he is fiddling around with the violin not making music with it.

That small boy is playing violin - isn't he wonderful.

That small boy is playing with the violin - quick grab it before he breaks it!