General and specific determiners

Determiners are words which come at the beginning of the noun phrase.

They tell us whether the noun phrase is specific or general.

Determiners are either specific or general

Specific determiners:

The specific determiners are:

  • the definite article: the
  • possessives: my, your, his, her, its; our, their, whose
  • demonstratives: this, that, these, those
  • interrogatives: which

We use a specific determiner when we believe the listener/reader knows exactly what we are referring to:

Can you pass me the salt please?
Look at those lovely flowers.
Thank you very much for your letter.
Whose coat is this?

General determiners:

The general determiners are:

  • a; an; any; another; other; what

When we are talking about things in general and the listener/reader does not know exactly what we are referring to, we can use an uncount noun or a plural noun with no determiner:

Milk is very good for you. (= uncount noun)
Health and education are very important. (= 2 uncount nouns)
Girls normally do better in school than boys. (= plural nouns with no determiner)

… or you can use a singular noun with the indefinite article a or an:

A woman was lifted to safety by a helicopter.
A man climbing nearby saw the accident.

We use the general determiner any with a singular noun or an uncount noun when we are talking about all of those people or things:

It’s very easy. Any child can do it. (= All children can do it)
With a full licence you are allowed to drive any car.
I like beef, lamb, pork - any meat.

We use the general determiner another to talk about an additional person or thing:

Would you like another glass of wine?

The plural form of another is other:

I spoke to John, Helen and a few other friends.


We use quantifiers when we want to give someone information about the number of something: how much or how many.




Hello ,
My question is a bit out of this topic. But i hope i can get answer.
When i look for some words in Cambridge dictionary i face some things i can not understand
. For example word is cholesterol, and its definition is " a substance containing a lot of fat that is found in the body tissue and blood of all animals, thought to be part of the cause of heart disease if there is too much of it:" I understand it. There is there [U] what does it mean ? (
We can also see [T], [I]
( )and so forth . Where can i get wide information about them about them ?

Hello seaara,

There's an explanation of these codes on the Labels & Codes page. I think that should clarify everything for you, but if not, please ask us again.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks so much, Peter!
I also noticed “What colour is this/that?” is hardly ever used, instead “What colour is it?” is idiomatic. Do I get this right?
The first chapters of all English textbooks are about introduction. Despite that after many years I’m still quite confused about making a proper introduction in English. As far as I can see from books and videos the question “What’s your name?” is not very common. More often people just greet each other and introduce themselves like ‘Hello! (Hi) I’m…” Besides while reading one of the fora I came across the post which surprised me a lot. A girl, native English speaker, wrote she could not imagine asking a stranger “What’s your name?” In her opinion it’d be rude and a sign of bad manners. Is it true? Is “What is your name?” mostly heard at the reception and should be answered “It’s…”?

Hello Elka0507,

You can certainly ask 'What colour is this?' when the object is in front of you, but it would be a rather unusual question for most people because if the object is in front of you then you can generally see the colour for yourself! 'What colour is it?' is a question we would use when we cannot see the object being discussed.

Asking for someone's name in this way is quite direct. Usually we would wait for them to tell us, as you say, and if we ask then we would do it in an apologetic manner, saying for example 'I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name' or 'I'm sorry, but I don't know your name'. We would only really ask directly in this way when the situation makes is normal, such as someone whose job it is to collect names for registration or similar. The correct answer would be 'It's John Smith' or 'I'm John Smith'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

You helped me a lot! When I wrote "What colour is this?" I meant the situation where an EFL teacher's asking a student in the classroom :-)


I am confused over some uses of words - each and every.
At some place I read "every international fora" and at other place it was "every single international forum" both of these are from a leading daily. Is there any difference in the two that every is followed by singular noun in one case and plural in the other.
Is it right to say "we had to stop every few miles"
And "I purchased 10books and every one of them was torn."
Also she'd some light over the uses of the two as in - which one to use where. I find the differences in the uses of each other and one another at a number of places but not each and every. Please guide.
Thank you

Hello Agog,

You can find information on 'each' and 'every' on our quantifiers page. There is no difference in meaning and I cannot think of a sentence in which you could not replace one with the other.

Not all examples of language in newspapers are correct, I'm afraid. We do not use 'every' with plural nouns unless there is another quantifier present, so we can say 'every few times' or 'every thirty meetings'. In these cases the 'thirty meetings' is treated as a unit and is effectively a singular concept.

The sentences with 'every few miles' and 'every one' are fine.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Peter. It was a great help.
Little more on that please.
Are both of these formations correct- "every international fora" and "every single international forum".

Hello Agog,

'Fora' is a plural form and should not be used with 'every'. The correct form would be 'all international fora'. The second phrase is fine.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have always heard sentences like "People helped him learn English" and " I heard the zookeeper say...". Why are the first verbs in the past tense while the second verbs in the sentences in the present?