Determiners and quantifiers


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 a 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, when i write an essay , i always do mistakes by not applying a or the in my sentences excluding in starting of sentences . I read many times a and the rules but i am still doing mistakes in their usage in the sentences . Please provide me an effective technique in this regard.

Hello daman daman,

Learning to use articles is a big challenge for many people. One thing that many neglect to take full advantage of is reading – read texts similar to the ones you want to write as often as you can, taking note of how articles are used in them, and then imitate these uses in your own writing. Finding a teacher who can correct your mistakes and explain them to you would also probably be useful. Unfortunately, we are too small a team to be able to help you with that ourselves.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The Learn English Team,
I read your quantifiers page i have a lot of doubts in this.By this i know only difference between" few" and "few of the"but i do not know the difference between" few" and "a few". Can you tell me the difference.For example
"He was not promoted to rank of colonel till for a few months of his retirement" why it is "a few" not "few.
"This town is not very well known and there is not much to see so few tourists come here.In this sentence why it is "few" not "a few".
please tell me the difference.

Hello everyone! Please help me know whether 'however' and 'otherwise' are determiners ?!

Hell dhunsik,

You can find this out by looking these words up in the dictionary. Note there's a handy search box on the lower right side of this page.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Please help me with this doubt.

When using industry specific terminologies like Employee ID number, or Member ID number in a conversation, is it a must to say Employee's ID number, or Member's ID number? Though I understand the usage of 's, I feel it is not required as Member ID or Employee ID is a collective terminology used in documents, systems, Id cards, etc. I also see that in many documents, companies use them without the 's. Particularly when someone is asking "what is the Member Id # of the patient?"or "what is the Employee ID of your team member?" or "Subscriber ID # please", is it necessary to use 's (Member's ID # is, Employee's ID # is, or Subscriber ID # is". Will it anyway be wrong to reply with the 's. Please clarify.

Thank you,
Praveen Muthiah

Hi Praveen,

We don't use the 's in these words, so the correct form is 'Member ID number' and 'Employee ID number'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thank you so much for the clarification. It will be great if you could also advise on why an 's with these terms would be incorrect. I truly appreciate your efforts to help learners across the globe.

Praveen Muthiah

Hello Praveen,

The words you ask about are compound nouns, which are often a combination of two nouns that act as one word – others, for example, are 'mineral water', 'tea leaves', 'sunglasses'. The first word acts kind of like an adjective, and no 's is used. This is just the way such nouns are formed. There is no easy way to determine whether you can combine two different nouns or not; you must use a dictionary to determine this sort of thing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk. Yours is the best team among all the forums available for English learning.