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.




Hi tobyfive1222,

The wider context, that is, the sentences before and after the sentence that you ask about, are essential in determining if an article should be used. In this case, 'meaning from context' looks as if it's almost like an idiomatic expression, but in general, you could use 'a' or 'the' before 'context' depending on how the wider context beyond that sentence.

'Is there' is generally used with singular nouns and 'are there' with plural nouns – see our it and there page for more on this. I think that should answer your question, but if not, please feel free to ask us again. The more specific your question, the better.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

What is the differnce between being and been? please

I am
I was
I will be


I am being
I was being
I will be being

I have been
I had been
I will have been

I have been being
I had been being
I will have been being
Be is stative verb , we do not use in progressive tenses as a present participle but when we do, it means for this time, not always

Hello charanchi,

These are different forms of the verb 'to be': 'being' is the present participle and 'been' is the past participle. They are used in a number of ways, usually as part of a larger verb phrase. A common use of 'being' is in continuous forms, for example ('He is being stupid') while 'been' is commonly used in perfect forms ('I have been here for a long time').


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Why my comment unpublished??

Hello arianty,

We read all comments before they are published, which means that it can take several hours or even a day before you see yours published. This is how we keep LearnEnglish free from spam, inappropriate content and clutter. The last comment of yours that I see before this one is on our personal pronouns page – is that the one you meant?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks mr,,,i'm very glad,,,,

Hi , I'm trying ro improve my English and here I have a question ; what's the meaning of " there has to be ... " for instance there has to be a song?

Hello Alikiani,

There are two parts to 'there has to be'. The first part is 'there' as a dummy subject + the verb 'be', which is used to say something exists. The second part is 'have to' + verb, which is used to express obligation. So this means that a song is needed or necessary.

I hope that helps clarify it for you!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hey Peter,

I think there is a slip of the pen in the paragraph explaining general determiners:
we can use a uncount noun or...
Isn' t it an uncount?

Great site, Thx a lot

Best regards,