Determiners and quantifiers


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 a 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.



Hi british council team,
Dear, i have been trying for long time to learn English language, to tell you the truth i am so eager to learn it but it is very difficult or impossible to find good English language learning institute in my country (Afghanistan) especially in country side. I want to learn proper writing like report writing, memo and articles. I do not know from where, i start it? it would be very good if your website assess students to start from where in English language they start it. moreover, how can i systematically improve my grammer. thanks in advance from your cooperation.

Hi Omer Gul,

First of all, I'd suggest that you take some time to explore the site. Use the links at the top of the page to go to different sections and see what kinds of materials are available. Get a feel for the level of difficulty of different sections so you can see what will be most useful to you at the moment.

Second, start with something that is not too high a level. Many users find Elementary Podcasts Series Three a good place to begin, though this obviously depends upon your level and needs. Work through the episodes, and remember that you can use the transcript to help you, or to read and listen at the same time after you have done the exercises.

Third, keep a vocabulary notebook as you work. Organise it by topic ('work', 'family', 'food' etc) and add words and phrases to it as you go through the material. Test yourself regularly to see if you remember the words.

Try to find time to practise English during your regular day. Perhaps you have a friend who is also learning English, with whom you can practise speaking, or perhaps you can practise by yourself, just speaking English when you are alone at home or at work. This kind of practice is great for developing fluency in speaking, so that when you need to use English in the 'real' world you are ready and confident.

How to improve your writing depends upon what kind of writing you want to do, for what purpose you are writing and who the recipient is. Different kinds of writing require different language and different ways of organising the text, so the first thing to do is to take a look at as many different texts as you can. In general, to improve your writing it's important to read and write as much as possible, so keep an eye out for good examples of letters, articles and so on.  Using the internet to read magazines, newspapers and other text-types from online media is a good idea.

If possible, you should get feedback from a teacher or knowledgeable friend on your writing. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to give users individualised feedback on their writing, but you can still use LearnEnglish to do some work on your own. You can respond to other users in the comment sections to carry on a written conversation, just as I am responding to you now. Good writers learn from reading other writers' texts, so you could learn a lot about writing from reading the content on the site. Our Magazine might be a good place to start if this interests you. You can also of course carry on written conversations there in the comments. On the other hand, if you are interested in academic writing, then our Writing for a Purpose section might be what you are looking for.

Whatever you do, try to spend at least 15 minutes several days per week reading and/or writing. When you have doubts, ask a friend or teacher, or you're also welcome to ask us periodically here by using the comments sections on each page, and we'll be happy to try to answer your questions. Remember also that written texts are usually well organised - unlike a lot of speech, which can often be haphazard and disorganised.  Therefore it's important to write in an organised way: start by collecting your thoughts, then plan how you are going to organise them, then write a first draft. After that, check (or get someone else to check) your draft before writing your final version. Research shows that good writers constantly review their work and amend it, so this is a good model.

I hope those suggestions are helpful.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team British council
Tell me the by which I can make my pronunciation best

Hello mohsinbadwani,

If you want to know how to pronounce an individual word, most of our dictionary entries have a button where you can listen to how the word in pronounced. You can also use the audio and video materials here on LearnEnglish to improve your pronunciation and fluency. After doing the exercises, try listening with the transcript (listening and reading). Then say the text yourself, repeating as many times as you need until it feels easier. You can even record yourself to compare your pronunciation with the recording.

Eventually, try saying these words and phrases with (and at the same speed as) the recording. This will help you to develop speed in your speech, which is a key component of fluency.  You'll also pick up a lot of language as chunks - words which are often used together in set phrases - which you can use to communicate with less hesitation.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there ,

Could you please explain the difference between these two examples ?

1. We use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind:

A man needs friends. (= All men need friends)
A dog likes to eat meat. (= All dogs like to eat meat)

2. • to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:

The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)
The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)
The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)

Thank you

Hello maria soomro,

My colleague Peter answered a very similar question several months ago; I refer you to his explanation of this point.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

First of all, a very Happy New Year to you and all the team members of British Council. Thanks a lot to you all for helping English learners.

Could you please tell me which one of the followings is correct -

1.Why don’t you buy new pants? The ones which you have are already torn.

2. Why don’t you buy new pants? The one which you have are already torn.

Thanks and Regards,

Hello iamsam1987,

The first one is correct. You can often find the answer to questions like this one by searching the internet or looking at example sentences in the dictionary.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team