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I was wondering how do we identify what instruments may be used with the verb 引く, or 弾く, or both?

If both 引く and 弾く can be used is there any difference in nuance between one vs the other?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

引く and 弾く, while pronounced the same, mean different things:

  • 引く means to pull, draw or otherwise move or lead in a literal or mostly literal sense (e.g. 手を引く, to lead someone by the hand; 引っ込める, to withdraw or retract)

  • 弾く means to play, for a wide variety of instruments, ranging from the piano to the violin, i.e. string instruments and keyboards (potentially caused by the piano and harpsichord in particular secretly being string instruments at heart).

Some instruments, however, use entirely different words, like 打つ for drums, especially the 太鼓.

Edit: Confusingly, 打つ is also used for an entirely different sense of the word play; namely that to play a single move in 碁.

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弾く is used for string instruments and keyboard instruments. As you said, other musical instruments use other verbs. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 16 '11 at 21:54
Why is the usage of 打つ in 碁 confusing? It is a simple case of 'hitting' the board. – user458 Jul 17 '11 at 3:11
@sawa: I guess that what Williham is saying is that English speakers may be confused because two different meanings of the verb “play” (as in “play the drums” and “play go”) are both translated to 打つ in Japanese in these examples just by coincidence. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jul 17 '11 at 3:31
@Tsuyoshi_Ito Is it coincidence? They both mean 'hit'. 打つ as 'play' is for percussions. – user458 Jul 17 '11 at 3:35
@dainichi: No particular reason; really, it can be used for both, still in two different meanings of the word "play". But the topic is convoluted enough already, I feel. – Williham Totland Jan 27 '12 at 11:36

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