Saturday, August 26, 2017


What is a Determiner?
In the midst of all the nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles a student is expected to learn, the determiner is often left by the wayside, untaught or taught incorrectly. The determiner is an important noun modifier which provides introduces and provides context to a noun, often in terms of quantity and possession. Determiners in English precede a noun or noun phrase and include articles, demonstratives, quantifiers and possessives.
Determiners in English
There are many different determiners in the English language.
Articles are among the most common of the determiners. A, an, and the all express the definiteness and specificity of a noun.
For example, “the” is a definite article, meaning the person using the word is referring to a specific one. On the other hand, “a” or “an” are indefinite articles.
  • The dog is barking too loudly.
  • A student returned the book.
Demonstratives, such as this, that, these and those, require a frame of reference in which an individual can point out the entities referred to by a speaker or a writer.
  • Do you want this piece of chicken?
  • I don't want to go to that movie.
Quantifiers, such as all, few, and many, point out how much or how little of something is being indicated.
  • He took all the books.
  • Few of the children wanted to go to the zoo.

When referring to an entity that belongs to another, you can use possessives. My, your, their, and its, are a few examples.
  • Is this your car?
  • The dog growled and showed its teeth.
There are many other types of determiners. For instance, cardinal numbers, the numbers that are written out in English, are also included in the class of determiners. Determiners are generally split into two groups—definite determiners and indefinite determiners.
Function of a Determiners
A determiner can take on a number of different meanings and roles in a sentence. The determiner is used in every case to clarify the noun.
  • They may be used to demonstrate or define something or someone.
Quantifiers state how many of a thing, in number or expression. A determiner is used to show that the noun indicated is a specific one (that one), not an unspecific one (any).
  • They may also state the differences between nouns.
While determiners may have a number of other functions, most of them are related to these two key areas. The list of determiners only numbers about 50 words, and all of these words are commonly used by most individuals. Determiners are not difficult to get the grasp of when contrasted with adjectives, and do not take too long for native English speakers to grasp. After all, how many times have you had trouble deciding whether to say “the” or “a”? 
Determining Determiners
How should you choose which determiner to use? For those who were raised speaking the English language, determining the determiner to use is second-nature, since determiners are so often used in front of nouns.
Like the basic parts of speech, determiners are so ingrained into the English language that using them is simple. The same goes for most Indo-European languages (for instance, Romance languages such as Spanish and the Germanic languages such as German).
However, the languages of other countries may not use determiners, or may have sets of rules very different than the English language does. For these individuals, learning how and where to use determiners can be rather difficult. 
Determiners and Adjectives
Until recently, English teaching in schools did not take determiners into account. Many determiners were simply lumped into the category of “adjectives,” which works for some but certainly not for all.
  • Adjectives have primarily three functions: they modify noun phrases, or complement the object or subject of a sentence.
  • The function of a determiner is to express proximity, relationship, quantity, and definiteness.
Determiners are not gradable as are adjectives. For example, a person may be angry, angrier, or the angriest. A person cannot be “her-est” or “the-est.”
Determiners are usually necessary (or obligatory) in a sentence, whereas adjectives are not.
Adjectives, unlike determiners, cannot have corresponding pronouns.
Adjectives and determiners are distinct from one another and cannot simply be lumped into the same category.


Nouns are often preceded by the words the, a, or an. These words are called DETERMINERS. They indicate the kind of reference which the noun has. The determiner the, is known as the DEFINITE ARTICLE. It is used before both singular and plural nouns: 

the taxi
the taxis
the paper
the papers
the apple
the apples
  The determiner a (or an, when the following noun begins with a vowel) is the INDEFINITE ARTICLE. It is used when the noun is singular: 
  a taxi 
a paper 
an apple
The articles the, and a/an, are the most common determiners, but there are many others: 
  any taxi 
that question 
those apples 
this paper 
some apple 
whatever taxi 
whichever taxi
Many determiners express quantity: 
  all examples 
both parents 
many people 
each person 
every night 
several computers 
few excuses 
enough water 
no escape
Perhaps the most common way to express quantity is to use a numeral. We look at numerals as determiners in the next section. 
   Numerals and Determiners
Numerals are determiners when they appear before a noun. In this position, cardinal numerals express quantity: 
one book 
two books 
twenty books
In the same position, ordinal numerals express sequence: 
  first impressions 
second chance 
third prize
The subclass of ordinals includes a set of words which are not directly related to numbers (as first is related to one, second is related to two, etc). These are called general ordinals, and they include last, latter, next, previous, and subsequent. These words also function as determiners: 
  next week 
last orders 
previous engagement 
subsequent developments
 When they do not come before a noun, as we've already seen, numerals are a subclass of nouns. And like nouns, they can take determiners: 
  the two of us 
the first of many
They can even have numerals as determiners before them: 
  five twos are ten
In this example, twos is a plural noun and it has the determiner five before it.