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What is the difference in meaning (however slight) between the two following sentences?

Both brothers fell in love with a girl living next door.

Both brothers fell in love with the girl living next door.

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  • Let me specify the situation: You and I are having a casual conversation. We’re both familiar with the brothers, but you haven’t heard of the girl yet. So in the situation I feel obliged to use “a girl”. On the other hand, I know that there is only one girl living next girl and the brothers fell in love with that only, specific girl, which makes me consider using “the girl”. With all that said, I’m personally inclined to “a”, but the original sentence that is taken from a book actually goes with “the”. – Fuzz Mar 12 at 14:33
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    "a girl living next door" implies there is more than one girl living next door. "the girl living next door" implies there is only one girl living next door. – TrevorD Mar 12 at 14:48
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It's an extraordinarily-slight difference.

I would suggest that 'a girl living next door' implies that she really is literally living next door, while 'the girl next door' or 'the girl living next door' implies that it might be meant in a more-figurative sense.

It's also theoretically possible that both brothers could fall in love with a girl next door but not actually the same girl, but that falls solidly into becoming a riddle, in my opinion.

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    To split hairs even more... "the girl living next door" implies to me that it's literally a girl living in the next dwelling, because the idiom is specifically 'the girl next door'. I'd also say that "the girl", if it's a specific person, implies that the brothers are living together and in love with the same girl. "A girl" doesn't carry any of that. – Scott Mar 12 at 15:33

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