Determiners*

Articles Determiner & Quantifiers

April 4, 2019

Native English Instructor

Written by Douglas Shaw

Determiners are words which come at the beginning of the noun phrase.

They tell us whether the noun phrase is specific or general.

Determiners are either specific or general:

E.g.

  • Can you pass me the salt please?
  • Look at those lovely flowers.
  • Water is very good for you. (this is an uncountable noun)

Specific determiners:

  • the definite article: the
  • possessives: myyourhisheritsourtheirwhose
  • demonstratives: thisthatthesethose
  • interrogatives: which

We use a specific determiner when we believe the listener/reader knows exactly what we are referring to:

e.g.

  • Can you pass me the salt please?
  • Look at those lovely flowers.
  • Thank you very much for your email.
  • Whose coat is this?

General determiners:

  • a; an; any; another; other; what

When we are talking about things in general and the listener/reader does not know exactly what we are referring to, we can use an uncountable noun or a plural noun with no determiner:

e.g.

  • Water is very good for you. (= uncountable noun)
  • Health and education are very important. (= 2 uncountable nouns)
  • Girls normally do better in school than boys. (= plural nouns with no determiner)

… or you can use a singular noun with the indefinite article a or an:

e.g.

  • A dog was lifted to safety by a man.
  • A man walking nearby saw the rescue.

We use the general determiner any with a singular noun or an uncountable noun when we are talking about all of those people or things:

e.g.

  • It’s very easy. Any child can do it. (meaning –  All children can do it)
  • With a full licence you are allowed to drive any car.
  • I like apples, oranges and pears – any fruit.

We use the general determiner another to talk about an additional person or thing:

e.g.

  • Would you like another glass of wine?

The plural form of another is other:

  • I spoke to John, Helen and a few other friends.
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