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 dear team,
I want to party and by party I mean read books. I think that read should be (reading). Am I right? If an ing form , so what is the reason?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinour,

The -ing form is not needed here because the word read is intended to fit in the same place as party. We can think of the sentence like this:

I want to party and by party I mean (I want to) read books.



The LearnEnglish Team

what is the difference between that this these and those plz

Hello omar123,

We use this and that with singular reference.

These and those are used with plural reference.


We use this and these to describe something which is close to us in some way. This could be physically close but it could also be close in other ways, such as close in time. For example, if we are inside a house then we would generally use this to describe it, and that to describe another house (next door or across the street). If we talk about time then this generally means the next one ('this weekend', for example) and that generally means the previous one ('last weekend').



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, dear team,
I’ve had my briefcase stolen, Is this equal to ( my briefcase was stolen), any difference?
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

Yes, that is correct. We can use to 'had sth done' construction with the meaning of 'this happened to me' to describe unexpected events.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Peter,
Thank you, Thanks a lot.

Dear Sirs,

I wrote the following the sentence:

Writing an/the introduction to an essay is challenging.

I was confused whether I should use an or the before the noun introduction. It appears to me both are acceptable. Am I right in my thinking?

Thanks for your incredible (free) help.

Hi cbenglish,

That's right, both 'an' and 'the' are possible here. Which one would be better depends on the context. Have you seen our Articles 1 and 2 pages? The explanations there might be useful for you, or if you have a specific context in which you'd say this, please explain it to us and we can suggest which article would be more appropriate in that context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk,

Many thanks for the response. Yes, I have looked at those rules many times and can parrot everything in there. My problem is application of the rules. The context of my statement is that I was writing to a friend about the art of composing an essay. That statement (Writing an/the introduction....) was the very first sentence followed by an explanation of the difficulty of writing an introduction.

The way I was thinking about this was: I am using the noun introduction for the first time; so, I thought, I should use an an. On the other hand, I also thought that since my use of introduction is general (i.e., applicable to all the introductions to essay composition), I thought I should use the definite article the. At one point, I even thought that since the meaning of introduction is general, there should be no article. I would be grateful to you if you could give me some hints about how to think properly in such contexts.