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Let's say I did music, dancing and acting in my life. Can I use these three words interchangeably? I think I probably can.

  • I have been involved in art.

  • I have been involved in arts.

  • I have been involved in the arts.

I looked at the definitions on collinsdictionary.com but I am not completely sure if we can say these sentences interchangeably. What do you think, and would there be a British-American difference?

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    Were the definitions of "art" and "arts" identical? Please include the links and the definitions in your question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 19, 2021 at 6:41
  • This is one of those rare occasions where I'd like to be able to vote to migrate a question from ELL to ELU rather than the other way around. See What is the difference, if any, between 'art', 'the arts', and 'Art'? as asked on ELU before this ELL sister site even existed. Oct 19, 2021 at 11:18

1 Answer 1

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I would say that you have been involved in the arts.

The arts refers to the general set of fields of which artistic/creative expression is a major part (such as writing, theatre, dance, painting, illustration, architecture, fashion, and many others).

Art, on the other hand, tends to refer to the creations of the artist, whether that is a painting, a play, a book, a sculpture, etc. Merriam-Webster gives the essential meaning of "art" as, in relevant part:

something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

or

works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings."

It can also refer to the "methods or skills" used to create such works (e.g., He studied art in college.)

"involved in arts" sounds incorrect to me—I would avoid this phrasing.


Note: I am a native American English speaker, so my answer is largely from that perspective. I have not encountered a difference in this area with British English, but my experience with BrE is limited.

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