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?

1 Answer 1


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.

  • 2
    弾く is used for string instruments and keyboard instruments. As you said, other musical instruments use other verbs. Jul 16, 2011 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, 2011 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. Jul 17, 2011 at 3:31
  • @Tsuyoshi_Ito Is it coincidence? They both mean 'hit'. 打つ as 'play' is for percussions.
    – user458
    Jul 17, 2011 at 3:35
  • 1
    @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. Jan 27, 2012 at 11:36

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