My dad, who studied English as a second language, often torments me with questions about the English grammar. One issue that comes up again and again is the use of articles. Now, my dad’s English is pretty good, and he has studied grammar in school and on his own. So he knows that an indefinite article ‘a/an’ is used when the noun in question is “not specific” and a definite article ‘the’ is used when the noun is “specific.” But such a generalization proves almost useless for a second language learner when actually composing a sentence.
Is there a practical, workable way to know exactly when to use ‘a/an,’ ‘the’ or no article? Or should I just tell my dad to flip a coin?