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What is a determiner? 

A determiner is a word that we use in front of a noun phrase to specify the noun. 



"A determiner is a word such as the, some, my, etc. that comes before a noun to show how the noun is being used." -Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Determiners indicate definiteness, indefiniteness, possession, quantity or number of nouns they modify. Here are some examples:

  • "She took my book." (The determiner "my" indicates possession of the noun "book.")
  • "Many people attended the party." (The determiner "many" indicates quantity of the noun "people.")
  • "This car is mine." (The determiner "this" indicates that the noun "car" is near the speaker.)
  • "Which book are you reading?" (The determiner "which" introduces the question about the noun "book.")
  • "I saw a cat." (The determiner "a" indicates that the noun "cat" is an indefinite, singular noun.)
  • "Give me those books." (The determiner "those" indicates that the books are farther away.)
  • "Her car is parked outside." (The determiner "her" indicates possession and specifies that the car belongs to a female.)

It's important to know that not every noun phrase requires a determiner. In some cases, a noun can stand alone or be modified by other adjectives.


  • Cats are cute.
  • Cars are fast.

Determiners & Adjectives

Determiners are a type of adjectives. There are two major classes of adjectives in English:

  1. descriptive adjectives and
  2. limiting adjectives

In grammar, 'limiting adjectives' are called determiners.

Types of Determiners

In English, there are five types of determiners. These include: 

  1. Articles
  2. Demonstratives
  3. Possessives
  4. Quantifiers
  5. Number

Here is a brief description about them. 

1. Articles

"A," "an," and "the" are articles. They specify the definiteness or indefiniteness of a noun.

Definite Article: "The"

The definite article "the" is used before singular and plural nouns. It indicates that the speaker is referring to a specific entity that is known or has been previously mentioned.


  • "The monkey is on your head." (referring to a specific monkey)
  • "I saw the movie last night." (referring to a specific movie)

Indefinite Articles: "A" and "An"

The indefinite articles "a" and "an" are used before singular countable nouns. They indicate that the noun hasn't been specified before.

  1. "A" is used before words that begin with a consonant sound.
  2. "An" is used before words that begin with a vowel sound.


  • "I saw a monkey on the street." (referring to any monkey, not a specific one)
  • "She eats an apple." (referring to any apple, not a specific one)

2. Demonstratives

"This," "that," "these" and "those." are demonstratives. They are used to indicate or point to specific people, objects, or locations.

Using Demonstratives

Context plays a crucial role in determining which demonstrative to use. Yet, there are some rules you can learn for using demonstratives:

Far & Near


"This" and "these" refer to things that are close to the speaker. 

  • This book is interesting. (The book is close to the speaker.)
  • These shoes are comfortable. (The shoes are near the speaker.)


"That" and "those" refer to things that are far from the speaker.
  • That car is expensive. (The car is far from the speaker.)
  • Those buildings are tall. (The buildings are distant from the speaker.)

Singular & Plural

We use "this" and "that" for singular nouns, and "these" and "those" for plural nouns.

  • This dog is cute. (Referring to a single dog)
  • That cat is lazy. (Referring to a single cat)
  • These apples are delicious. (Referring to multiple apples)
  • Those chairs are comfortable. (Referring to multiple chairs)

3. Possessives

"My," "your," "his," "her," "its," "our," and "their" are possessive determiners. Possessive determiners indicate ownership or possession. They show that something belongs to someone or something.



  • This is my house.
  • My car is parked outside.


  • Is this your bag?
  • Your parents called.


"His" indicates possession by a male person. 

  • He lost his wallet.
  • The man is doing his work.


"Her" indicates possession by a female person.

  • She borrowed her sister's book.
  • Her cat is adorable.


"Its" indicates possession by a non-human thing or animal.

  • The tree shed its leaves.
  • The company increased its profits.


  • Our team won the championship.
  • Let's put our books on the shelf.


"Their" indicates possession by both human and a non-human.

  • They found their seats in the theater.
  • The children went to their grandparents' house.

Possessives of Nouns

Here are some rules for using possessives in English:

Singular Possessive

To indicate possession or ownership by a singular noun, add an apostrophe ('s) followed by an optional "s" at the end of the word.

  • John's car is blue.
  • The cat's tail is fluffy.
  • My friend's house is beautiful.

Plural Possessive

For plural nouns ending in "s," add an apostrophe after the "s" without adding an additional "s."

  • The students' books are on the shelf.
  • My daughters' toys are scattered in the yard.
  • The birds' nests are in the trees.

Plural Possessive

For plural nouns not ending in "s," add an apostrophe followed by an "s."

  • The children's toys are in the playroom.
  • The men's shoes are neatly arranged.
  • The women's team won the game.

Joint Possession

When two or more nouns possess something together, only the last noun takes the possessive form.

  • My brother and sister's room is tidy. (The room belongs to both the brother and the sister.)
  • John and Mary's wedding was beautiful. (The wedding belongs to both John and Mary.)

4. Quantifiers

Quantifiers are words that indicate the quantity of noun or pronoun in a sentence. The most common quantifiers are:

  • all, every, each
  • some, several, few, a few, many

Using Quantifiers

Here are some general rules and guidelines for using quantifiers in grammar:

Agreement with Nouns

Quantifiers should agree in number with the nouns they modify.

If the noun is singular, the quantifier should be singular, and if the noun is plural, the quantifier should be plural. For example:

  • Plural: Some students are absent.
  • Singular: Each student has a textbook.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Consider whether the noun is countable or uncountable. For countable nouns, use quantifiers such as "many," "few," "several," etc. For uncountable nouns, use quantifiers like "much," "a little," "some," etc. For example:

  • Countable: Many students attended the lecture.
  • Uncountable: There is much sugar in the bowl.

5. Numbers

In grammar, the term "number" indicates whether a noun, pronoun, or verb is singular or plural.

Using Numbers

When using numbers as determiners in grammar, there are some rules to keep in mind:

Agreement with Nouns

Numbers should agree in number with the nouns they determine. If the noun is singular, use a singular number, and if the noun is plural, use a plural number. For example:

  • I have three books.
  •  There are two cats in the garden.
  • "One cat is sleeping." (singular noun & determiner)
  • "She is reading a book." (singular noun & determiner)
  • "Three cats are sleeping." (plural noun and determiner)
  • "Two boys are reading books." (plural noun and determiner)

Use of Hyphens

Hyphens are often used when writing compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine, as well as for fractions. For example:

  • Twenty-five, sixty-seven, seventy-two
  • One-half, three-quarters

Combining with Other Determiners

Numbers can be combined with other determiners to provide more specific information. For example:

  • Correct: I want both of the two books.
  • Correct: She ate several of the ten cookies.

Remember that these rules provide general guidance, and there may be specific contexts or exceptions where different usage is appropriate. 

Using Multiple Determiners

Group A & Group B Determiners

In English grammar, determiners can be classified into two main groups: "Group A" and "Group B" determiners. These groups are based on their behavior and usage in sentences.

Group A Determiners

  • These include articlesdemonstratives, and possessives.

Group B Determiners

  • These include quantifiers and numbers.

Using Multiple  Determiners Before a Single Noun

Group B determiners are used before nouns without of:

  • Some people are never happy. 
  • You can take any food you like.

But if we want to use a group B determiner before a noun that has a group A determiner, we use of between them.

  • Some of the people were unhappy. 
  • You can keep any of our food.

While these five types cover the majority of determiners in English, it's important to note that there can be some variations and additional determiners depending on the specific context and usage.