Determiners are noun markers and modifiers. Determiners introduce a noun or noun phrase. They limit, specify or clarify their meaning and reference of noun usage. Determiners function like adjectives. They are also called as fixing words.
For Practice Exercises click here
Characteristics of Determiners
Determiners introduce or signal that a noun or noun phrase will follow and then give information about them. They may tell whether the item (noun) is general or specific, singular or plural. They can quantify nouns or tell about ownership of nouns. They can refer to nearness or farness of nouns.
In short, we can say that Determiners tell in which reference the noun has been used.
Classification of Determiners
1. Articles – a/an, the.
2. Demonstrative Adjectives: This, that, these, those.
3.Quantifiers: A quantifier is a word or phrase which is used before noun to indicate the amount or quantity. Types of quantifiers are as follows:
|Definite Number||One, two, three (cardinal) etc. and first, second, third (ordinal) etc.|
|Indefinite Number/Quantity||Some, many, much, enough, few, a few, all, little, a little, several, most, etc.|
|Distributive||Each, every, all, either, neither.|
|Comparative:||More, less, fewer|
4. Possessives: My, your, his, her, its, our, their, mine, hers, yours, ours, theirs, etc.
Determiners and Kinds of Nouns with Which They are Used
- A, an, each, everyone, another and either are used with singular countable nouns.
- This and that are used with uncountable nouns/singular countable nouns.
- These and those are used with uncountable nouns/plural countable nouns.
- A little, a lot of, a great deal of, much are used with uncountable nouns.
- More, most, a lot of, enough, adequate, some are used with uncountable nouns/plural countable nouns.
- A few, several, many, both are used with plural nouns.
- The, some, any, my, her, your, our, their, its, which, whose, what are used with any type of noun.
Articles – A, An, The
Articles are used before nouns. ‘A’ is used before a noun starting with a consonant sound and ‘An’ is used before a noun starting with a vowel sound. ‘The’ is used before singular countable nouns, plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns.
Use of Indefinite Articles: A and An
The use of ‘a’ and ‘an’ is determined by sound. The following words begin with a vowel, but not with a vowel sound. A unique thing, a one-rupee coin, a European, a university, a useful suggestion, a union of states
So, here ‘a’ is used.
On the other hand, with the following words, ‘an’ is used although they being with a consonant.
An hour, an honest man, an heir to the throne, an MCA. Here, the sound is the criterion to decide whether a/and will be used.
‘A’ is used before a noun beginning with a consonant sound.
e.g., a boy, a girl, a union
(Here the words – boy, girl and union begin with a consonant sound.)
‘An’ is used before a noun beginning with a vowel sound.
e.g., an egg, an envelope, an order, an hour
(Egg, envelope, order and hour begin with a vowel sound)
Use of Definite Article: The
‘The’ is called definite article and it can be used before singular as well as plural nouns in the following situations:
(1) Before nouns introduced earlier.
(i) I saw a lion. The lion was sleeping under a tree.
(ii) We heard a noise. The noise came from a neighbour’s house.
(2) Before the superlative degrees of adjectives.
(i) Amit is the best singer in the school. (ii) He is the wealthiest man in the town.
Exception: If possessive adjectives like my, his, her, their, your, our, etc. have been used before superlative degree, ‘the’ is not used. e.g.
(i) He is my best friend. (ii) Mr Dixit is our best teacher.
(3) Before nouns defined by a phrase or a clause.
(i) The girl in the blue skirt is my sister. (ii) The man with a little nose is our principal.
(iii) The cars made in our factory are very cheap.
(iv) The book on the table belongs to the library.
(4) Before singular nouns which signify the whole class or race.
(i) The dog is a faithful animal. (ii) The elephant has a long trunk. (iii) The cat likes milk.
(5) Before the names of rivers, seas, oceans, bays, deserts, islands, chains of mountains, canals,
jungles, plural names of countries and republics.
- Oceans and seas e.g. The Pacific Ocean, The Arabian Sea
- Rivers e.g. The Yamuna, The Thames
- Canals e.g. The Suez Canal
- Deserts e.g., the Thar Desert, the Sahara Desert
- Group of Islands e.g., the West Indies, the Netherlands
- Mountain ranges e.g., the Himalayas, the Aravali Ranges
- A few names of countries, which include words like States, Republic of Kingdom e.g. The People’s Republic of China, The USA, The UK, The West Indies, The U.N. ,etc
NOTE: If words like ‘Lake’, ‘Mount’ and ‘Cape’ come before such entities, ‘The’ is not used before such words. e.g. Mount Everest, Lake Manasarovar, Cape Comorin, etc.
(6) Before adjectives which are used as nouns.
(i) The brave always rule over the earth. (ii) The rich should help the poor.
(iii) The weak can never do anything.
(7) Before the names of things which are unique and only one in the world.
The sun, the moon, the sky, the earth, the world, the Taj, the Great Wall of China, etc.
(8) Before names which are in combination of adjective + noun.
The National Highway.
(9) Before the names of religious books, musical instruments and ordinal numbers.
The Geeta, the Bible, the Quran, the Ramayana, the violin, the flute, the first, the fourth, the
eleventh, the last, the next, etc.
(10) When two comparative degrees are used in one statement.
(i) The more you have, the more you want. (ii) The sooner, the better.
(iii) The higher you go, the cooler you feel.
(11) When a proper noun is compared with another well renowned proper noun, that well renowned proper noun acts as common noun and ‘the’ is used before it.
Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India. (Great Dramatist)
(12) Before the names of religious communities, castes, nationality, political parties, ships, trains, aeroplanes, etc.
The Hindus, the Sikhs, the Jats.
The English] the Indians, the Americans, the Congress, the BJP, the CPI, the CPM, the Pink
City Express, the Ashoka, the Titanic.
(13) Before the plural surnames used for the entire family.
The Guptas, (Gupta family) the Sharmas, (Sharma family), etc.
(14) Before the dates and days of national importance.
The 15th August, the 26th January, the Independence Day, the Republic Day, etc.
(15) Before nouns which come after the words like all, some of, one of, each of.
All the boys, some of the students, one of the girls, each of the winners.
(16) Before combination as noun + of + noun.
The Bay of Bengal, The temples of Mathura.
(17) Before the name of newspapers, directions and regions.
The Rajasthan Patrika, the East, the North, the East.
Omission of Article ‘The’
I. Before material, abstract and proper nouns used in a general sense.
e.g., a) Honesty is the best policy. (not The honesty…….)
b) Sugar tastes sweet. (not The sugar…….)
c) Paris is the capital of France. (not The Paris……)
II. Before plural countable nouns used in a general sense.
e.g., Children like toys.
III. Before names of people.
IV. Before names of continents, countries; cities etc.
e.g., Europe, India, Lucknow.
V. Before names of individual mountains and peaks.
e.g., Mount Everest
VI. Before names of meals used in a general sense.
e.g., Lunch is ready.
VII. Before languages and words like school, college, university, church, hospital.
e.g., a) I learn English at school.
b) My friend is still in hospital.
VIII. Before names of relations, like father, mother, etc.
e.g., Father is at home.
IX. In certain phrases consisting of preposition followed by its object.
e.g., At home, in hand, by night, in case, on foot, by train, on demand etc.
Demonstrative Determiners – This, That, These, Those
I. That (in case of plural, those)
a) It is used to avoid the repetition of the preceding noun(s).
e.g., My writing is better than that of my friend.
Our soldiers are better equipped than those of Pakistan.
b) It refers to person(s) or thing(s) far from the speaker.
e.g., Get that dog out of here.
Those houses are for sale.
II. This (in case of plural, these)
a) It refers to person(s) or thing(s) near the speaker.
e.g., This book is very interesting.
These flowers are very beautiful.
‘Some’, ‘many’ ‘a lot of’ and ‘a few’ are examples of quantifiers. Quantifiers can be used in affirmative sentences, questions, requests or commands with both countable and uncountable nouns.
- There are some books on the desk.
- He’s got only a few dollars.
- How much money have you got?
- There is a large quantity of fish in this river.
- He’s got more friends than his sister.
Some quantifiers can go only with countable nouns (e.g., friends, people, cups) , some can go only with uncountable nouns (e.g., sugar, tea, money, advice), while some can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.
Examples of quantifiers are given below:
|Only with Uncountable Nouns||With both Countable and Uncountable Nouns||Only with Countable Nouns|
|a little||no, none, not any||a few|
|a bit of||some, all||a number of|
|a great deal of||a lot of, lots of||a great number of|
|a large amount of||plenty of||a large number of|
Usage of quantifiers are as follows:
I. Use of few/a few and little /a little:
a) Few, a few and the few.
Few emphasises the lack of something.
e.g., There are few sweets left in the jar.
(We should be careful not to eat them too quickly because they are almost finished.)
A few emphasises that something still remains.
e.g., We still have a few minutes left before the class gets over. So you have any questions?
(We still have some time; we should use it.)
b) Little, a little and the little
Little emphasises the lack of something.
e.g. We have little money right now; we should go out for dinner another day.
(We should be careful and use the money wisely because we don’t have much.)
A little emphasises that something still remains.
e.g., There’s a little ice-cream left, ; who will eat it?
(There’s not enough ice-cream left to put back in the freezer, so it should be eaten.)
II. Use of much and many
a) We use much with singular uncountable nouns and many with plural nouns.
e.g., I haven’t got much change; I’ve got a hundred rupee note.
Are there many campsites near your place?
b) We usually use much and many with interrogative sentences and negative sentences.
e.g., Is there much unemployment in that area?
How many eggs have not been used in this cake?
Do you think many people will come?
The rain was pouring down in torrents but there wasn’t much wind.
III. Use of more, less and fewer (Comparative determiners)
a) We use more or less before singular uncountable nouns by adding than after it, or for an additional or lesser quantity of something.
e.g., I do more work than Suresh.
Please give me some more salad.
Satish does less work than me.
I want less salad than Mahesh.
b) We use fewer before plural countable nouns to refer to a group of things smaller than another.
e.g., Fewer students succeeded in passing than last year.
We had fewer computers a year ago.
IV. Use of each and every (distributive determiners)
a) We use each for two or more than two items and every for more than two items. Both of these are followed by singular countable nouns and singular verbs.
e.g., Each of the two boys has won a prize.
Every student in the school is present today.
b) We use each when the number in the group is limited or definite, but every is used when the number is indefinite or unknown.
e.g., Each student in my class was promoted.
Every person in the world has a parent.
V. Use of most, several and all
a) We usually use most with plural uncountable nouns.
e.g., Most of the people can be trusted.
Most of the time I am not at home.
b) We usually use several with plural nouns, put it refers to a number which is not very large. (i.e. less than most)
e.g., Several people were crushed in the stampede.
Several people lost their lives in the Tsunami.
c) All requires a plural verb when used with a countable noun, but requires a singular verb with an uncountable noun.
e.g., All are going to Delhi.
All that glitters is not gold.
VI. Use of another and other
We use another only with singular countable nouns, whereas other can be used with singular countable, plural countable or uncountable nouns.
e.g., Bring me another knife, as this one is blunt.
I would prefer the other house.
The other students went back home.
He is a better human being than most others.
VII. Use of either and neither
a) We use either to refer to two things, people, situations etc. It may mean one or the other of two or each of the two.
e.g., I don’t agree with either Ram or Shyam.
b) We use neither with only singular countable nouns and a singular verb. Neither is the negative of either.
e.g., Neither of the two boys passed the exam.
Possessives (My, Your, His, Her, Its, Our, Their etc.)
Possessive determiners or possessive adjectives tell us who owns something. We use a possessive determiner before a noun to show who owns the noun we are talking about. They come in front of any other adjectives.
e.g., This is your bike
That is our small house.
We use different possessive determines depending on who owns the thing we are talking about. The following table shows the possessives as well as the associated pronouns for which they are used in a sentence. But, for determiners these possessives are followed by nouns.
|Possessive Determiner + Noun||Used with Type of Pronouns|
|my||I, he/she and it – first person singular|
|our||we – first person plural|
|your||you – second person singular/plural|
|their||they – third person plural –|
|his||he – third person singular masculine|
|her||she – third person singular feminine|
|its||it – third person singular neuter|
This is my house.
Which is their house?
Where is your house?