Can you explain the author’s use of "the" and "a" in the following sentence:
I heard the crunch of tires in dirt, and a cloud of dust wafted over me.
So, ignoring the two pronouns, “I” and “me”, there are five nouns in that sentence: crunch, tires, dirt, cloud, and dust. However only two of them — crunch and cloud have articles, and even there the articles are different: ”crunch” gets the definite article, the; but the indefinite article, a, is used for “dust”. What rules are used to decide when to precede a noun with an article at all, and then which of “the” or “a” to use when an article is deemed to be appropriate.
For example, compare the original sentence with:
I heard a crunch of tires in dirt, and a cloud of dust wafted over me.
Is that second version wrong? It sounds OK to my ears, but even if it has no grammatical issues, how is it different in meaning? And then, how about this third option:
I heard the crunch of tires in dirt, and the cloud of dust wafted over me.
That now does sound strange. The use of the definite article for “cloud” doesn’t sound right, but what, if anything, is wrong with it?
Or why not even have:
I heard a crunch of the tires in the dirt, and a cloud of the dust wafted over me.