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After many unsuccessful attempts to master the use of these two __of course after reading many good books like English Grammar in Use, Longman Grammar__ I have come to a conclusion that there is no a strict universal rule which can be applied every time . May be I am wrong, so I find it much more helpful to here others advice from experience in the hope that it will suggest a new and easy way to approach the matter from a different angle as grammar books.
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Hi Ahmedali,

Nothing in English is "always" and "universal," it seems, and the biggest confusion with a and the seems to be when you have nouns that are usually uncountable being used in a countable way.

If you can think of a way that there could be more than one of something, or more than one type of it, then try using a.

I think this may be something that you have to get a feel for over time. I know that I remain confused over when to use du and des in French instead of le or les, so I can't blame English alone. If you have specific questions, please post them and we'll do our best to help you understand why.
This may seem like strange advice, but if you get the right feeling in your head, a or the will come out right when you need to use them. When you get the right feel for it, the rules don't matter. But getting the right feeling in your head probably depends on having read hundreds and hundreds of texts.

As you probably already know, a is only used when you're talking about one person, place, or thing.
the is used when your brain tells you that you have specified enough information that the listener (or reader) knows exactly which person, place, or thing in the real world you are talking about. If you say the key, and you get a blank stare and the question "Which key?", then you haven't specified enough to use the. Maybe you should have said the key to the car, or the key I gave you yesterday, or the key that we will be using later, or ...

I have probably repeated things you already know, but that's all I can think of at the moment. It seems that the shorter the word, the longer it takes to master it!

CJ
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CalifJimIt seems that the shorter the word, the longer it takes to master it!

CJ
How true! To my mind, the articles are the most difficult aspect of English grammar owing to the myriad illogicalities in their use.
CB
And since prepositions come right after this in terms of confusion, this observation, henceforth known as "CJ's Rule" continues to hold true!
Hee hee hee! I've never had a rule named after me before!

CJ
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For example, i ll take these two examples from Longman English Grammar :

The cobra is dangerous .

A cobra is a very poisonous snake .

Although it gave an explanation , but it is not clear to me why in the first one it uses the and a in the second !
The use of articles in general statements is fairly arbitrary. It doesn't matter which one you choose. You can also use the plural without an article.

The cobra is a snake.
A cobra is a snake.
Cobras are snakes.


The three sentences above all mean the same thing. You can use any of the patterns to make a general statement. In cases of statements which are not general, the difference between articles makes a greater difference in the meaning, but not for general statements.

CJ
CalifJimA cobra is a snake.
To me that sounds as though it were written by a child. It would imply that some cobras are not snakes.
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