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 salemzwai,

The difference between 'a few' and 'few' is as follows:

'a few' means 'enough'

'few' means 'not enough'

So, if I say 'I have a few friends' then I mean that I think this is a good number; I am not lonely.

If I say 'I have few friends' then I mean that it is not enough and I am lonely.

The same distinction is made between 'a little' and 'little' for uncount nouns.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the helpful information.
Best regards

Thank you so much for your reply.
I have an example.
Why sould we use (a) before few in this sentence?
A few good men who are doing their duties.

Best regards

I am confused with something in this below mentioned sentence. Would you please help me solve my problem?
Would you like another glass of wine?
As far as I know "another" is a determiner in this sentence but I am confused with "glass". Could you please help me what the glass is in this sentence? Is this also a determiner or something else. Glass of wine is a noun phrase but what's glass itself in this sentence?

Hello muslimbadshah,

'a glass of ...' is commonly used with drinks to indicate quantity. 'glass' in this case is a count noun (i.e. you can say 'two glasses of water, please'). It might be useful for you to look up 'glass' in our dictionary – be sure to scroll down until you see the appropriate entry.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I'm having trouble with classifying the word 'all'. My logic tells me it's usually a determiner, but can you have two determiners? eg: 'I ate all the rice.'

Hello coopie,

You are correct that it is a determiner. It is possible for determiners to appear in certain combinations. You can find a list of these here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have the apple. And this is yours.
I have the apple. And that is yours.
I have the apple. And it is yours.

Hi sir.
I have a question.
I want to know about difference of "This/that/it".
Can you tell me about that?

Thanks for your fast reply.

As your suggestion, I read those pages for a few minutes.
I got a concept about 'near and this' and 'not near and that'.
But I still have a question.
I wish to understand the difference of 'that' and 'it'.
For example, here is one situation below.

A : Is that my one?
B : It is really yours.

In this situation, can I use 'that' instead of 'it'?