"The" is a general term in most cases. "This" is much more specific. For example, "I pet a cat. The cat is soft." It is still specific, but you couldn't say "Hey, look at the cat," referring to the cat in your arms. It's better to say "Hey, look at this cat!" "This" is more common for something close to you, as well. "This tree" usually refers to a tree close to you, while "the tree" could be a tree near or far. "The" can also be used for plural nouns, while as "this" cannot. You cannot say "This trees are beautiful." You'd say "The trees are beautiful." It may be a bit confusing, but I hope this helps!
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