Equations proposed in previous work on the non-linear motion of a string show a basic disagreement, which is here traced to an assumption about the longitudinal displacement u. It is shown that it is neither necessary nor justifiable to assume that u is zero; and also that the velocity of propagation of u disturbances in a string is different from that in an infinite medium, although this difference is usually negligible. After formulating the exact equations of motion for the string, a systematic procedure is described for obtaining approximations to these equations to any order, making only the assumption that the strain in the material of the string is small. The lowest order equations in this scheme are non-linear, and are used to describe the response of a string near resonance. Finally, it is shown that in the absence of damping, planar motion of a string is always unstable at sufficiently high amplitudes, the critical amplitude falling to zero at the natural frequency and its subharmonics. The effect of slight damping on this instability is also discussed.