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 Kirk,
Thank you, thanks a lot.

Hello dear team,
Can I say ( I change iron to gold, or should I use 'into'')
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

'in' is possible, but 'into' is more commonly used and the form I would recommend here. You might also be interested in learning the word 'transmute' (also used with 'into'), which is used an alchemical contexts such as the one you appear to be writing in here.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

The word "stage", meaning a raised platform..., is listed in the Cambridge dictionary (and others as well) as a countable noun. But the example sentences don't use articles before "stage". For example, "Hamlet is on stage for most of the act", is an example sentence in the Cambridge dictionary. Please clarify why article has been omitted?

Hi Adya's,

On stage and on the stage are both correct but have different uses.

The phrase on stage is actually an adjective or adverb which tells us that a given person is visible to the audience. The opposite is off stage and both phrases can be written as single words (onstage/offstage). It can be used with regard to film as well, or even to other public situations such as television or public meetings: The politician behaved one way onstage and quite another in private.

We can say on the stage to describe where someone is and then we would use the article.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Kirk,
Thank you, thanks a lot.

The pronunciation of "the" as ðə or ðiː depending on a consonant or vowel word that follows it is clearly described. My question is if we can use ðiː for the sake of emphasis before consonant words as in the sentence, "This is the (ðiː) most important factor".

Hello Adya's,

Yes, you can use the form /ðiː/ for emphasis.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much. ☺️