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Should I use a or the before every noun that I use? For example, what's the difference between

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year.

and

Late in winter of my seventeenth year.

The second sentence makes sense to me as the first one.

I can quite understand the use of a before a noun. For example,

I saw book.

doesn't make sense to me and I know I should use a before it to determine which book I mean.

But for example, I don't still know why I should put the before the word use in my above sentence!!:

I can quite understand the use of a before a noun.

Thanks for your help.

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Use is a gerund and because it 'sort of' still a verb, you often precede them with either a proper noun (To indicate who, or what, is 'doing' the verb), or 'The' in place of that proper noun.

For example, you could have said one of the following if you were talking about a specific use.

I can quite understand my use of a before a noun.

I can quite understand their use of a before a noun.

Because you're talking about using 'a' before a noun in general you instead use the.

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