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.



Are words like "John's","Rahim's" determiners?

Another one,Sir.

Is the sentence"If I were a king!" correct?
Thank you.

Hi Sheikh Salauddin,

Sometimes phrases like 'John's' are considered possessive forms of nouns and sometimes they are classed as a kind of possessive determiner. Since our grammar is a learner's grammar, we don't get into that kind of issue, but I expect you could find some discussion of it in the English Language and Usage StackExchange if you're interested.

'If I were a king!' is technically an incomplete sentence, but would probably be fine in most cases if the result clause were clear from the situation or context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sirs,

I wrote the following sentence in an essay, which is the very first sentence:

"When we wake up in the morning and listen to the news or read the newspaper, we see the same old old stories."

On re-reading the sentence, I am confused about my use of definite articles in front of news and newspaper. Is it also correct to say?

"When we wake up in the morning and listen to news or read newspapers, we see the same old old stories."

My thinking is that since it's the very first sentence, I should not use definite articles before news and newspaper. Is my reasoning correct? I really appreciate your guidance on the issue.

Thank you very much, as always.

Hi cbenglish,

When we speak about what is explained in radio, television, newspaper or new website reports, we also refer to this as 'the news' (with the definite article 'the' always used). So when you speak about 'listening to the news', it's correct to say 'the news' (and just 'news' is not correct).

You could say just 'read newspapers' instead of 'read the newspapers'. If you say 'the newspapers', there is some suggestion that the reader knows which newspapers you're talking about, but not necessarily. If it were my essay, I would most likely say 'the newspapers', as we often use 'the' here even when it's not completely clear which newspapers we're talking about.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir.
Could u tell me the difference between determiner and quantifier?
What are pre-, central, and post determiners?

Thank you,

Hello Risa warysha,

A quantifier is a type of determiner. The relevant wikipedia page (here) contains a list of the most common kinds of determiners.


Pre-, post- and central describe the positions of different determiners.

Pre-determiners come first, central determiners come next and postdeterminers come last.

Example: all the thirty women 

Here, 'all' is a pre-determiner, 'the' is a central determiner and 'thirty' is a postdeterminer.



There is some debate as to whether this terminology is helpful. Postdeterminers often have adjectival characteristics, for example, which other determiners do not, and are not only identified by their position.



The LearnEnglish Team


which of the following sentence is correct?

1) He worked as an insurance agent before he went to the US.
2) He had worked as an insurance agent before he went to the US.

Hello Mohd Zaffar,

Both forms are possible here. Without a wider context there is nothing to show which would be preferable.

Generally, we use past simple for sequences of actions (first... later...). We use past perfect when an earlier action has some relevance to or influence on a later action.

You can read more about the past perfect on these pages:


Please note that we are on a page on the topic of articles and determiners, not the past perfect. We ask users to post questions on relevant pages as it helps to keep the comments sections useful for other users who may have similar questions.



The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir
which of the following sentence is correct?

1) We have never had any dispute with them.
2) We never had any dispute with them.

Hello Mohd Zaffar,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. Which one you need will depend upon the context and what you are trying to say.

The first sentence describes an ongoing situation. It tells us that you still know 'them' and up to the present time have not had any disputes.

The second sentence describes finished time. It tells us that when you knew 'them' there were no disputes, but we understand that you no longer know them for some reason, so there cannot now be any disputes. You might use this sentence if the situation has changed:

They used to live in our time and we never had any disputes with them. They moved away last year.



The LearnEnglish Team