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.

Quantifiers

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

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

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').

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

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,
Kirk
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.

Dear Sirs,
I wrote the following sentences:
1. Hinduism is followed by millions in India.
2. Hindu religion is followed by millions in India.
I felt that the first sentence is correct, but I could not be sure about the second one. It could be right but I felt that the sentence should read "The Hindu religion..." (i.e., the term Hindu religion should be preceded by the definite article). Am I right in my thinking? Or both are correct? If the term Hindu religion requires the definite article, what is the reason for this?
Thank you very much.

Hello cbenglish,

You are correct. No article is used in the first sentence because 'Hinduism' is an abstract noun and so no article is used. You could use the definite article if you want to distinguish between different versions of Hinduism:

the Hunduism of modern India

the Hinduism of the Indian diaspora

 

In the second sentence the definite article is needed because you are specifying which of a number of religions you are describing. If you talk about religion as an abstract concept then no article is needed:

every society, as far as we know, has created for itself some form of religion

for many people, religion is a key part of their identity

We do not use articles with the proper names of religions, so we say Islam, Christianity, Hunduism, Judaism, Buddhism and so on. However, if we specify a particular religion by using an adjective then we use the definite article:

the Christian religion grew out of the Jewish faith

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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