I was trying to do a PET sample test, and I found the following sentence reconstruction exercise, they were easy; but there's a sentence that I couldn't complete, this is the sentence:

"If you want to learn a musical instrument, you need to practise every day."

"You can't learn a musical instrument ______________ you practise every day"

How can I fill it?

  • 8
    That's a horrible question. It's too ambiguous as Adam's answer demonstrates. Apr 30, 2016 at 0:20
  • Yeah..Unless is the perfect answer. Apr 30, 2016 at 9:45
  • 1
    Judging by the wording of the example sentence, I'm guessing they intended "if you don't".
    – Jack M
    May 1, 2016 at 15:41
  • The PET writing exercise also specifies that the transformed sentence MUST have the SAME meaning as the original, and the gap MUST NOT contain more than three words (1-3 words). All things which the OP didn't think to mention, and which allowed Adam's answer to be highly upvoted. Please consider the fact that a user or visitor may not have the time or inclination to read the comments and think the answers proposed by Adam are acceptable. They're not. Except for unless, which is the ONLY answer that fits when you know the aforementioned constraints.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 25, 2017 at 7:34

4 Answers 4


One possible answer is "unless."

You can't learn a musical instrument unless you practise every day

The same sentence could also begin with the "unless" clause, in which case unless means "if not" e.g. if you don't ...

Unless you practice every day, you can't learn a musical instrument.


NOTE: The question originally did not include the sentence that provides context. Given that context, "unless" is the only sensible choice. I am leaving this answer up to illustrate some of the options that would be available if the context was not provided.

The other respondent's answer (unless) is likely the expected one. There are other possibilities that make some kind of sense, and would be perfectly grammatical:

You can't learn a musical instrument unless you practise every day."

If you don't practice daily, you will not learn to play. This is probably the "correct" answer.

You can't learn a musical instrument if you practise every day."

Your mind needs to rest a little - take occasional breaks from practicing if you wish to learn faster.

You can't learn a musical instrument because you practise every day."

Similar to the previous one - daily practice is hampering your progress.

You can't learn a musical instrument until you practise every day."

You have been wasting your time with occasional practices. Change your behavior and start practicing more, or you won't learn.

You can't learn a musical instrument even if you practise every day."

You are a fat-fingered, tin-eared incompetent. You will never learn to play an instrument. Give up now. Although would also work here.

  • 4
    Out of the answers so far, until and unless are the only two that really fit/ make sense IMO. Apr 30, 2016 at 2:40
  • 4
    I upvoted simply because of your final point, that was hilarious xD
    – minseong
    Apr 30, 2016 at 10:45

Here is another way:

You can't learn a musical instrument before you practise every day.


'excepting that' is also another possible answer, but less likely than 'unless'

You can't learn a musical instrument, excepting that you practice everyday

Meaning you can learn in the exceptional circumstance that you practice every day. I don't know who would say that really.

  • 2
    I didn't downvote, but this is not just "less likely than 'unless'", it's archaic and sounds stilted in Modern (Standard) English. It is definitely not what a standardized exam (the PET) would be looking for.
    – zwol
    May 1, 2016 at 23:50
  • 1
    ... "except if" you practice every day would be acceptable
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 25, 2017 at 8:35

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