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

Many thanks sir. Is it possible for you to give a quick response regarding why zero article is not possible? Is it because it's a fixed phrase? I feel that zero article is possible since the term level sounds like an abstract noun. I know I am wrong but can't figure out how to think about it correctly.

Hello cbenglish,

While there are similar phrases with others than words than level, there is no real consistency in how articles are used with them. For example, we can say in the theoretical realm but not in a theoretical realm  in this kind of context. Thus, I would say that this is best treated as an expression to be memorised rather than the expression of a grammatical rule.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Help please, I'm confused. According to Cambridge dictionary we don't use the article THE when referring to activities in the building. So why do we use the article THE in the second sentence but not in the first sentence?
1) He's at school (for teacher or student)
2) He's at the hospital (for doctor or patient)

Hello freemeu,

We have several options here:

He's at school = he's a pupil

He's at the school / He's in the school = he's visiting it (in = inside the building; at = more general)

 

He's in hospital = he's a patient

He's at the hospital / He's in the hospital = he's visiting it (in = inside the building; at = more general)

 

Please posts questions once only. Posting the same question more than once only slows the process down as we have to delete the additional examples.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you! But if someone is in there doing what the building is meant for, then we omit the article THE as in: He's in bed sleeping and He's in the bed watching TV.! For example we say
The pastor is at church.
The Student is at school.
In both sentence we omitted THE to show that they are there to do the activity the building is meant for(student to learn and pastor to preach the gospel). Here is my question:
The doctor is at the hospital
The guard is at the prison
In these two sentences why don't we omit the article THE to show that the doctor is there to do the activity the building is meant for (to treat the patients).

Hello freemeu,

There are many examples which follow the rule you quote but it is not completely consistent. For example, we say a patient is in hospital but we say a doctor is in (or at) the hospital. Similarly, we say that a criminal is in prison but we say a guard is in (or at) the prison.

The reason for the inconsistency is simply convention. This is how the language has developed through use over many years. It's unfortunate but English is hardly unique in having exceptions to some of its grammatical and lexical rules!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Can we use "a/an" before a noun showing relation.

For e.g Catherine has_____ in London.

Can we say "an" if I want to say she have 1 aunt.

Hello amol,

The indefinite article is used before non-specified countable nouns. Nouns describing relations are no different from any other nouns in this regard. Thus we would say 'an aunt' in your example if it is the first time we have mentioned her. Once we know which aunt is being referred to then we would say 'the aunt'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Can we use any article before the word showing nationality?

e.g John is ______Spanish.

I think, in the above example, the word "Spanish" is used as an adjective, so no article is required.

I am confused. :-*

Regards

Hello amol,

Articles are used before nouns so when an adjective is used without a noun no article is needed. This we would not use an article in your example.

It is possible to use the definite article before certain adjectives to describe a group: the rich, the poor, the Spanish, the English, the sick, the healthy, the old, the young etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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