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~ The answer is 'All of the things in the store are 30% off the regular prices.' But what if I say 'All of things in the store are 30% off the regular prices.' Is the 2nd sentence really wrong? If yes, what's the difference between the 2 sentences? Thanks~

Hello Gary_Lee,

'All of things' is not correct in any context in English. You can say 'all of the things' or 'all things' and both are correct, though 'everything' is more frequently used in this context. There is no real difference in meaning.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


would you please help me fill in the blank on these examples:
1/__British drink too much tea.
2/Dancing is __ more interesting activity than reading.
3/As__captain of__ship I have __ complete authority.
4/__people we met on__holiday in__north of Englandcame from __USA.
5/ __ Teachers are like __weather,one minute they're good,__other they're bad.

thank you!

Hello SaharEch,

I'm afraid we don't do this! It's best for you to do this kind of practice exercise yourself – you'll learn much more that way. If you want to ask us about one of the questions, explaining your answer and why you chose it, then we're happy to help you understand the sentence, but you should generally do this kind of work yourself.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I am not so sure when to put an article before a noun.

Example: "Guessing the meaning from context"
Why shouldn't we put "a" before "context"?
Are there any rules regarding this issue? Thanks :)

P.S When we ask questions, we use either "is there" or "are there" , depending on the context and the predicted answer, right?

Hi tobyfive1222,

The wider context, that is, the sentences before and after the sentence that you ask about, are essential in determining if an article should be used. In this case, 'meaning from context' looks as if it's almost like an idiomatic expression, but in general, you could use 'a' or 'the' before 'context' depending on how the wider context beyond that sentence.

'Is there' is generally used with singular nouns and 'are there' with plural nouns – see our it and there page for more on this. I think that should answer your question, but if not, please feel free to ask us again. The more specific your question, the better.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

What is the differnce between being and been? please

Hello charanchi,

These are different forms of the verb 'to be': 'being' is the present participle and 'been' is the past participle. They are used in a number of ways, usually as part of a larger verb phrase. A common use of 'being' is in continuous forms, for example ('He is being stupid') while 'been' is commonly used in perfect forms ('I have been here for a long time').


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Why my comment unpublished??

Hello arianty,

We read all comments before they are published, which means that it can take several hours or even a day before you see yours published. This is how we keep LearnEnglish free from spam, inappropriate content and clutter. The last comment of yours that I see before this one is on our personal pronouns page – is that the one you meant?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team