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 , 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,


Hello Jurgen,

You're absolutely right. I've just fixed this – thanks very much for pointing this out to us!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it 'an uncount noun' or 'a uncount noun'?

Hello mathivanan palraj,

The sound here is a vowel sound /u/ and so we use 'an'.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
Which is correct?
1.Mona claimed that she had seen an unicorn.
2.Mona claimed that she had seen a unicorn.
Thank you.

Hello chiarencher,

2 is correct. When the 'u' at the beginning of a word is pronounced like 'yu' (e.g. 'unicorn', 'university', not 'unlike', 'up', etc.), 'a' is used, not 'an'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello madam/sir,
Thank you for all information, but some time I confuse between those and these. Could you please to help me to clarify its?
Lien Do.

Hello Lien Do,

'These' and 'those' (and 'this'/'that', 'here'/'there') are examples of deictic words - words whose meaning depends on the context in which they are used. Generally, 'these' refers to something which the speaker perceives as close and 'those' to something which the speaker sees as distant. This could be physical closeness or closeness in terms of time, or other kinds of closeness.

If you have an example then we'll be happy to comment on it directly. However, please remember that the context is crucial for the meaning of these items, so an isolated sentence is not a good example.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team