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 sir.
I have some doubts about the use of a singular or plural verb in the follow sentences; which one of these are correct?

There is a small quantity of pencils on the table or
There are a small quantity of pencils on the table

A large number of people are in the room or
A large number of people is in the room?

And the last one:

There are plenty of people in the church or
There is plenty of people in the church

Thank you so much.

we first need to identify the subject in every sentence. We identify "a small quantity" as the subject of the first sentence and "quantity" as its main subject because both "a" and "small" modify it. Since "quantity" is singular, it receives a singular be verb which is "is." The same goes to number and plenty. They're both singular so they both receive the be verb "is." Don't get fooled by "of pencils" and "of people" because even if "pencils" and "people" are identified as plural nouns, they belong in the prepositional phrase. PP is basically "preposition + optional modifier/s+ noun." Take note that PP do not contain the subject so if it says "the book of pens and pineapples is awesome to read" the subject will still be "book" and the be verb is "is." I hope that helps.

Hello Daniel,

In each of these cases, the important thing is to find the subject of the verb. In the first, the subject is 'a small quantity'. Since 'quantity' is a singular count noun, the singular form 'there is' is the appropriate one. In the second, the subject is 'a large number'. As 'number' is a singular count noun, 'is' is the correct form. In both of these sentences, since the idea is basically plural (pencils, people), some people might use a plural verb, but I'd recommend you use a singular one.

And in the last sentence, the subject is 'plenty of people'. Unlike in Spanish, 'people' is grammatically plural in English, so 'there are' is the correct form. Saying 'there is' in this context is wrong.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Could you please tell me which of the following sentences correct:

"Angels never eat, drink, sleep, nor get tired." or " Angels never eat, drink, sleep, or get tired."

Thanks in advance,

Hi zagrus,

The word I would use here is 'or'. The reason is that 'nor' contains a negative meaning and that has already been expressed by the word 'never'; if you use 'nor' after 'never' then you have a double negative, which we avoid in English.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team,
The explanations above are pretty complicated. We can’t understand
From the other site they said:
Determiners include:
the articles : a / an / the
demonstratives : this / that / these / those
possessives (aka possessive adjectives): my / your /his / her / its / our / your / their

And more general determiners are quantifiers:
"I teach online for 3 days a week."

Hello fahri,

I'm not sure which site you mean, but in any case we don't generally comment on what other sites say. The word 'include' means that the list after it is not complete, i.e. it is a partial list.

If you have a specific question, please feel free to ask it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I am very sorry because you don’t understand what I mean.
They said:
Determiners include:
the articles : a / an / the
demonstratives : this / that / these / those
possessives (aka possessive adjectives): my / your /his / her / its / our / your / their

For example:-
"The dog barked at the boy."
"These apples are rotten."
"Their bus was late."
"Have you seen my keys?"
Is that true???
All of articles, demonstrative and possessive are determiners?????
They also said:
More general determiners are quantifiers:
a few
a little
any both
every few

For example:-
"Have you got any English books I could borrow?"
"There is enough food to feed everyone."
"I don't teach online every day."
Is that true????
Forgive me and thank you very much for your answers and I am going to patient for that.

Hello fahri,

Yes, as far as I can think, all of those classes of words are determiners. I'm confused because our site clearly indicates this. What is the difference that you see between the other site and ours? We don't generally comment on other sites, but with all the things you've copied, it would be helpful if you could tell us which part you have a question about.

Perhaps you're wondering if quantifiers are a kind of determiner? If that's your question, the answer is yes. You might want to look at the Wikipedia entry for Determiner to learn more about this.

I'm sorry if this hasn't answered your question, but what you're asking is completely clear to me.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello just want to know the uses of different tenses.the easy way to understand tenses.i am quite confused thank you