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I'm doing my training exercices for the course I'm going to take this summer and am stuck in this question :

Estudia comparativamente la dinámica del artículo en estos dos enunciados

  1. Un amigo es aquel que te tiende su mano aunque no la merezcas.
  2. El verdadero amigo es el que sabe todo sobre ti, y sigue siendo tu amigo.

I tried my best, but can't explain the difference from an advanced spanish grammar perspective, for me they are just used interchangibly.

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Both the definite and the indefinite article can be used to introduce definitions, just as in English:

  • A lion is a feline. (Un león es un felino)

  • The lion is a feline. (El león es un felino)

Curiously, in the case of "amigo" the definite article requires an adjective. We could also say "un verdadero amigo", but unlike "un amigo", "el amigo" does not work to refer to friends in general.

  • Un amigo es aquel que te tiende su mano aunque no la merezcas.

  • El verdadero amigo es el que sabe todo sobre ti, y sigue siendo tu amigo. (As opposed to one who is not a true friend)

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