I was wondering if these two sentences have the same meaning. I'd be grateful if any native speaker could help me with this.

He was playing the piano with his eyes closed.

He was playing the piano, closing his eyes.

Do they mean the same? If not, what's the difference between the two?


Your first sentence:

He was playing the piano with his eyes closed.

... conveys what I suspect is your intended meaning: the subject, with his eyes closed, was playing the piano.

Your second sentence:

He was playing the piano, closing his eyes.

... conveys something different: the subject, while playing the piano, lowered his eyelids.

The first sentence uses the past participle of the verb close as an adjective, indicating that his eyes were closed while he played the piano. The second sentence uses the gerund-participle closing to indicate action—the closing of his eyes—that was in progress as the past action of playing the piano took place.

Most native speakers would describe the piano player just as you have in the first sentence. It's idiomatic English.

  • 1
    The piano player ends up with closed eyes either way, but, as you point out, the second sentence seems to catch him in the act of closing his eyes. – J.R. Jun 28 '17 at 23:50
  • 2
    @J.R. Well, maybe. It is just possible that he closes his eyes so very slowly that the action is never completed: Zeno's Eyelids. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jun 28 '17 at 23:52

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