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Are there any simple rules for article usage (“a” vs “the” vs none)

Can someone explain the difference between 'the messenger' and 'a messenger'? Please don't just explain that one is a definite and another is an indefinite article. I have seen people using both where differentiating one from the other seems difficult to understand. For example:

I am just the messenger.

I am just a messenger.

marked as duplicate by Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, JSBձոգչ, user11550, RegDwigнt Jan 20 '12 at 8:31

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  • But it really is just the difference between a definite article and an indefinite one. The same difference in meaning that applies for any "an/the" case applies here. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 20 '12 at 3:48
  • Then, I think I am just overly reacting. – user17857 Jan 20 '12 at 3:54
  • a messenger: any messenger. The messenger: the only messenger, or the only important one worth considering (usually referring to a message just delivered). However, this shading of meaning is not dependant on "messenger", just on the context in which you might have a unique or important messenger that can be "the" messenger. The same context-sensitive differences apply whenever you have an "a/an vs the" situation. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 20 '12 at 4:02

The messenger appears to be used when there is a specific message that is the topic of conversation. I.e. I am just the messenger (who brought the message). On the other hand, a messenger does not necessarily imply that that you are discussing a specific messages, but rather any messages from some source.