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 Peter,
Thank you, thank you a lot.

Hello dear team,
Could you kindly use the phrase (very much though) in a sentence. I can not provide the context, I heard it on an interview with a star, it is so fast that I can not hear it.
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour,

I can't be sure, but I think the phrase you heard may have been very much so rather than very much though.

Very much so is a way of agreeing with something in an emphatic way:

Do you like swimming?

Very much so! I go swimming every morning, in fact.

You can read more about the phrase here and here.


We do not use very much though as a phrase. The words can occur together, but as separate phrases:

I like swimming very much, though I don't go swimming very often.



The LearnEnglish Team

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.