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.

Quantifiers

We use quantifiers when we want to give someone information about the number of something: how much or how many.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello

Is this sentence correct? It's strange to me because of the 'a':

'What makes you think he is a him'

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

Yes, that is correct. The object form of personal pronouns is usually used after the verb 'be', especially in simple copulas (such as this case). It's a bit strange, really, but it's how native speakers speak.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Why do we use ''a'' article with numbers when giving a number to something; for example,

''I give you a seven for the appearance''

Thank you in advance.

Hello JakiGeh,

Here the idea is that you are giving a rating or measurement -- it's as if you were saying 'I give you a (rating of) seven'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
what is the difference between " How do you feel about John?" and " How do you feel about John"?
Best regards,
Abdullah

Hello Abdullah,

Different style guides make different recommendations on how to punctuate sentences.  I'd say that most would punctuate a question the first way, i.e. with the question mark inside the quotation marks. There is no difference in meaning between them.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry, my question was about the difference between " What do you feel about John?" and " How do you feel about John"?

thanks in advance

Hello Abdullah,

It's unusual to use 'what' with the verb 'feel' in this way -- 'how' is much more common. As far as I know, this is just a question of use, i.e. this is the way people speak. It's not that 'what' is unintelligible; it just sounds a bit strange. If you put a noun such as 'feelings' or 'emotions' after 'what', however, then it would work.

By the way, if you change the verb to 'think', the opposite is true, i.e. 'what' is commonly used and 'how' is not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Whose coat is this?
Does this sentence contain two specific determiners namely "whose" and "this"?

Hello Mannkhan,

'Whose' is a determiner in this example but 'this' is a demonstrative pronoun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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