Among all the parts of speech a student is expected to study, “determiner” is the chapter which is always left more or less neglected. Often it is left or sometimes taught incorrectly. So read through this chapter to know “All about determiners.” A determiner is often called as the noun modifier which gives an introduction and provides context to a noun, usually about quantity and possession.

What is a determiner?

“Determiner is a form of grammar that helps to demonstrate further information about a noun.”

It is a phrase or words or kind of a noun modifier, usually preceded by nouns, which gives an introduction or help in identifying things in added detail. Determiners contribute in deciding the kind of situation a noun or noun group. However, pronouns such as “Personal pronouns” (I, he, you, etc.)  and “possessive pronouns” (yours, his, mine, etc.) don’t represent determiners. Determiners are often used when someone specifically knows which person one is talking about or which thing one is specifying in a given situation.

They are used before a noun to convey ideas such as ideas and concepts regarding quantity and certainty. The primary function of a determiner is to express a situation by simplifying and explaining what a noun is referring to. It determines whether a noun is referring to a definite or indefinite component, to a component specifically about a particular person or a thing, to a component related in a closer or more distant manner, to a specific quantity that explains a number of things or people. Therefore, it can be said that determiners, similar to adjectives, refers to information such as quantity, definiteness, proximity, and relationship.

Examples of Determiners

  • I want to read that book.
  • There are few people in the mall.
  • Do you have any pen I could borrow?
  • I take math classes 3 days a week.
  • These chocolates are for that girl.
  • Have you seen my dog?
  • Their car broke in the highway.

Difference between Determiners and Adjectives

Both Adjectives and determiners help to modify a noun phrase or a noun. However, the major difference between them is that determiners are added before a noun and help to introduce a noun to the audience, but adjectives act as a noun modifier by providing further information about them.

Another key difference between the adjectives and determiner is that adjectives can be graded according to the importance or expressed regarding varying intensities such as big, bigger, and biggest. But determiners cannot be graded. For example “that” cannot be written as “that-est” or “that-er.” Additionally, “Determiners” are important and necessary part of a sentence formation while “adjectives” are optional.

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Uses of Determiners

Determiners are used in reference to different purposes and have various meanings. But one thing common about any type of determiners is that it clarifies a noun or a noun phrase. The most common function of determiners is to further explain or demonstrate a person or an object. For example, determiners can show that whether a noun present in a sentence is specific or unspecific. Furthermore, it can also help to identify the differences between nouns. There are many other functions of determiners such as determiners of expressing quantity, questions, possession among others but these functions are mainly in relation to the primary key functions as mentioned before.

Although it is not very difficult to understand “Determiners” as it is commonly used in written as well as verbal English but to understand the concept if determiners thoroughly it is required to have an understanding of the types of determiners which we are going to study below.

The type of determiner to be used in a context varies according to the type of noun present. Such as

Singular Nouns – Singular noun always require a determiner

Plural Nouns – In Plural nouns the determiner is optional

Uncountable Nouns – In uncountable nouns the determiner is optional

There are approximately 50 different determiners present in the English language. They are


  • Definite article – the
  • Indefinite articles– a, an

Demonstratives – this, those, that, these, which, etc.

Pronouns and possessive determiners- my, your, his, our, their, her, its, my friend’s, our friends’, etc

Quantifiers– a few, few, much, a little, many, each, a lot of, some, any, every, most, enough

Numbers- one, ten, thirty, twenty, fifty, sixty and so on

Ordinals – first, second, last, next, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. (ordinal numbers will have a suffix: -nd, -rd, -st, or -th.)

Distributives- all, both, half, either, neither, each, every

Difference words– other, another

Pre-determiners- such, what, rather, quite

Different types of Determiners

As mentioned above there are various subtypes of determiners, and each one is used in different context and serve a different function. These major types include articles, demonstrative, possessive, numeral, quantitative or quantifiers and interrogative.


They are mainly three examples of articles. These are – a, an, and the. For example:

  • Close the window properly.
  • She has a friend who lives in Germany
  • A man is cleaning the garden
  • I am writing an article.
  • I am going to eat the breakfast later than usual.
  • The Indians are very honest and hardworking.
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Articles are further subdivided into two types- Definite article and Indefinite article.

The definite article is referred to a particular noun (a person or a thing) mentioned in the context.

  • I like the pizza from Pizza Hut.
  • He has lost the pen I gave him the day before yesterday.
  • We saw the red car yesterday.
  • The dog is barking very loudly.

Indefinite articles are a class of noun referred in a sentence or a text. Indefinite articles are “a” and “an.” Even though both the indefinite serve the same purpose, but they cannot be interchanged. Article “a” is used with a singular noun that starts with a consonant. Such as (a television, a phone, a bike), but article “an” is used with a singular noun that is placed before a vowel such as (an umbrella, an apple, an orange, an Englishman.)

Examples of indefinite article “a.”

  • She has a pet dog in her house.
  • I want to buy a pencil.

Examples of indefinite article “an”

  • They have an orange every alternate day.
  • She intends to be an engineer.

Demonstrative Determiners

Demonstrative determiners are used to indicate the position or location of an object from the point of view of the subject. Demonstrative determiners act demonstrates and acts as pointers of a particular noun. It indicates the position or location of a noun. Examples of demonstratives- these, that, this and those

For example, demonstrative “this” is applied to singular nouns that are near the subject, while “these” is applied for a plural noun that is close to the subject. “That” is used for a singular noun to indicate that the object is far away while “those” is the plural noun use to represent the far distance from the speaker or subject.

Examples of demonstrative determiners

  • This is my computer.
  • That is my father’s laptop.
  • These clothes are expensive.
  • Those cookies kept in the table are yours.

Possessive Determiners

This type of determiners is used to demonstrate any relation or possession. It indicates possession or ownership of an object or to whom an object belongs to. Few examples of possessive determiners include my, our, their, you, her, his, and its.

However, it is to be noted that possessive determiners vary from possessive pronouns. This is because possessive pronouns can be used independently or can stand alone.

Examples of possessive determiners

  • Her clothes look very neat and tidy.
  • My teachers are very understanding and kind.
  • Our garage door is left open.
  • Her sister is a very responsible girl.
  • Is this her book?
  • This is my
  • His house is in the outskirts of the city.
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Numeral Determiners

When numerals are placed in front of a noun to quantify the noun they are called as numeral determiners. (Four bird, three kittens). Numeral determiners can be classified into three types:

Definite Numeral such as one, two, four, second, first, etc.

  • She has two kittens
  • The third boy in the fourth row is my brother.

Indefinite Numeral such as some, few, a few, many etc.

  • Somebody has left a few coins in the table.
  • I have read few chapters from the book.
  • Many of them were late for the office today.

Distributive Numeral such as all, both, half, either, neither, each, every

  • Each one of them was asked to donate for the noble cause.
  • Neither of them was too happy with the new office rules.
  • Every person in the crowd got angry and agitated after the speech
  • Both the plans will be successful


The type of definite determiners that is used to demonstrate the order of occurrence or exact quantity of a noun is called as numbers determiners. It can be further subdivided into two types:

Cardinal Numbers- Cardinal numbers include numerical words such as one, two, three, ten, thirty, forty etc.

  • I want two potatoes
  • She needs three actors for the play

Ordinal numbers- These are used to numerically indicate rank or order such as first, second, third, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, last, next, fourth, 4th etc.

  • I am going to the 2nd floor library.
  • She is the third among all the four children.
  • Can you move to the next chair?

Quantifiers/ Quantitative Determiners

These are indefinite determiners that specify the quantity of noun without mentioning any precise numbers. Examples of quantifiers include any, no, much, little, more, many, some, plenty, enough, several, few, etc.

  • Some boys are playing in the garden.
  • Very few of the students knew the correct answer.
  • I don’t have enough money to buy a car.
  • She does not have any answers to her mother’s questions.
  • You have made too many mistakes in the past few
  • Some leftovers from yesterday are still left in the fridge.
  • The chances of her surviving the attack are less.


Interrogative determiners are used in terms of “asking questions.” Examples of interrogatives include whose, what and which.

Examples of interrogatives

  • What is your favourite sport?
  • Which of these articles is yours?
  • Which one of them is your friend?
  • Whose notebook is left in the table?

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