What is a Determiner?


Langports logo CMYK v2 2016This week’s blog has been brought to you by the Gold Coast academic team and will explain to you what a determiner is.  To begin with, you must understand that determiners in English can be broken up into four groups; Articles – Demonstratives – Quantifiers – and Possessive Adjectives and that they modify nouns. Therefore, a determiner must always be followed by a noun. So, let’s look at each of these groups.


An article is a kind of determiner and are the words a, an, and the. To understand the basic rules of what an article is we use the articles a/an before a non-specific noun or for something that we are talking about for the first time. We use the article the when we have already spoken about something or when the person we are speaking to knows which thing is being referred to. It is also important to know that we use the article an before a word that starts with a vowel sound. (Be careful with this rule because for example, we would say a university or a European city as the words university and European do not start with vowel sounds even though they start with a vowel.)


Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are the words this, that, these and those. These words are followed by a noun but they require a frame of reference in which an individual or individuals point to what they are talking about. For example, “look at those birds”.



A quantifier goes before a noun when we want to describe how much or little of that noun there is. Some of the more commonly used quantifiers include; many, all, no, none, lots of, a few, a number of, plenty of, any, some, a bit, much. Please be careful when using a quantifier because some of them can only be used with Uncountable nouns some with Countable nouns and some can be used with both.

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Possessive Adjectives

When we are referring to an object that belongs to someone or the person talking, we use a possessive adjective. A list of singular possessive adjectives includes; my, your, his, her, its. Plural possessive adjectives include our, your and their.

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Truly understanding all of the determiners in English is a challenging task but if you have any questions regarding what you have read, please speak to your English teacher for further explanation. The rules above are just a brief insight into what a determiner is so continue studying hard and you will be an expert user in no time.


Thank you! The Gold Coast Academic Team