Do you learn to play the piano??

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Happyweekend

Senior Member
Korean
Hello! Happy Sunday!

If I see a boy holding some piano 'textbook', and I want to know whether he is a piano learner, should I ask:
1. Are you learning how to play the piano?
2. Do you learn how to play the piano?

I think 1. is the most common thing to say. 2. just sounds weird to me.

What do you think?
Please help!

Thank you:)
 
  • Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I disagree with Rover.
    From my AE perspective, 1. is entirely natural, and 2., while odd, is not at all ungrammatical. I also find Rover's suggestion of 3. to be quite unnatural; I would ask "Are you taking piano lessons?" rather than "... having piano lessons."
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I would ask him "Are you learning to play the piano?"
    In BE we normally have piano lessons.

    Do you learn how to play the piano? sounds very odd indeed.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I've never played any instrument (though I whistle occasionally :D ) so I do not know how one learns but... well, does one not need to be sitting at a piano to be learning to play the piano?

    Then, learning how to play the piano sounds weird to me because of that 'how' there. :) I may be wrong (or this could be pedantry) but I might ask this question if I knew the boy was already a piano player and was, at the moment, acquiring knowledge of the manner in which one needs to play. :D

    Example 2. may be a grammatical sentence, in theory, but it beats my imagination in what context it might work. :) But true, from a grammar point of view it sounds to me alright, except for the 'how'...
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    but... well, does one not need to be sitting at a piano to be learning to play the piano?
    No, not at all. Suppose I said "I am taking skydiving lessons", or "I am dating a supermodel". This does not mean that as we speak, I am in the act of leaping from an airplane, or that if you look to my right you will see Gisele Buendchen or Miranda Kerr on my arm. You can use the present progressive to describe actions that you engage in regularly, even if you are not engage in that action at the time you are speaking.

    For example suppose you meet an attractive young woman on the beach in Cancun, Mexico during "spring break". She tells you she is a university student, and you ask for more details. She replies:
    I am attending Harvard and studying microbiology.
    She can say this even if you are clearly not in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she does not have a textbook or a microscope anywhere nearby, because it is understood that in the near future she will return to school.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I too disagree with Rover. Both are perfectly grammatical, but "do you learn" is fatally unnatural, as most uses of the simple present are. "Are you learning" is completely natural, so much so that there is no need to avoid it by resorting to "having/taking lessons" (in which I also prefer having to taking).

    Boozer makes a good point. "How" should be omitted. How does one play the piano? You sit at it and you poke at the keys with your fingers. Everyone knows that and there is no need to learn it. Acquiring the skill of how to do it well isn't learning how to play, it's learning to play.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    No, not at all.
    I personally would ask 'Are you learning to play the piano?' if I saw the person sitting at a piano, striking a key now and then, twang here, ping there, that kind of thing. :D I simply do not seem to believe that one can acquire such a complex skill by simply reading about it. For me it takes practice. All of this, of course, is not a language issue - it's to do with the way one thinks.

    As regards the use of present continuous, I am generally familiar with it.
     

    shorty1

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I infer from what you folks posted:

    Have lessons/class : BE
    Take lessons/class : AE

    Very helpful for me. ;)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    On the other hand, the book held by the boy purports to teach him how to play the piano.
    No, that has not been established. The OP merely referred to "some piano textbook". We don't know whether the OP meant "textbook" literally in the sense of an instructional narrative on technique, or whether it was just a book of pieces, such as the "Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach", or a book of studies (such as those by Czerny), or a practical course book, such as from the series "John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano", the title of one of which is "Teaching Little Fingers to Play", in which the word "how" is conspicuously absent.
    boozer said:
    I personally would ask 'Are you learning to play the piano?' if I saw the person sitting at a piano, striking a key now and then, twang here, ping there, that kind of thing. I simply do not seem to believe that one can acquire such a complex skill by simply reading about it
    Generally, when one is sitting at the piano twanging and pinging away, one doesn't just twang and ping at random, but one plays from a book of sheet music, which tells you which notes to twang and ping, when, and for how long. If you have a piano at home to practice on, but visit the teacher for lessons, you will carry this book around with you as you travel between the teacher's place and home. The incident reported in #1 is, I think, the OP seeing the boy clutch such a book and deducing (and asking for confirmation) that the boy may be learning (to play) the piano (you don't need to be actually sitting at the piano to be "learning", as Mahantongo points out in #6).
     
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