Determiners and quantifiers

Determiners and quantifiers

Read clear grammar explanations and example sentences to help you understand how determiners and quantifiers are used. Then, put your grammar knowledge into practice by doing the exercises.  

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Average: 4 (93 votes)

Submitted by elle_gomez on Thu, 04/07/2024 - 21:34

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Hi everyone!
I don’t like chicken but I like chicken that my mom makes. OR I don’t like pies but I like pies that my mom makes. (instead of “the chicken that my mom makes” or “the pies that my mom makes”)
The question is: Do I actually need to use the definite article if the reader/listener has never seen this chicken or these pies? 
Since the definite article is used when something is known to both participants of the conversation. And even despite the fact that there are relative clauses, as, in general, they don’t make head nouns definite – head nouns need to be definite before the postmodification. The relative clauses in my sentences are just restrictive but not identifying, as far as I understand, which doesn’t enable the reader to identify the head nouns, given that he/she has never seen this chicken or these pies.
Please correct me if my explanation is wrong!

Hi elle_gomez,

I think you do need the article here as the speaker is trying to distinguish an items with a particular characteristic (being cooked by his or her mum) from all other examples. Whether or not the listener has ever seen this chicken is irrelevant; what is relevant is that the listener understands it as a separate and identified category. It's similar to these sentences:

I don't normally like country houses but I like the house my grandfather lives in. [you don't need to have seen this house]

I'm not a fan of abstract art but I liked the paintings I saw at the museum yesterday. [you don't need to have been at the museum]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply! I have another example from a Roadmap book:

Another English dish that I really like is called bubble and squeak. My mum made it for me when I was a child. My grandmother showed Mum how to make it. It’s made with food left from last night’s dinner. It’s usually cabbage and potato. You mix this with meat, usually beef, and then cook it all together.

Don’t we need to use here the food ? And will the sense change a lot if I use the here?

Hello elle_gomez,

I think there is a difference. With 'the' I would understand that you used all of the food that remained from the dinner. Without 'the' I would not know if you used all the food or just some of it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rif'an Affan on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 11:16

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Hello sir, I'd like to know the different between "What do you do in your free time?" and "-for your free time?" 

Thanks. 

Hello Ri'fan Affan,

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a situation when I'd say 'What do you do for your free time?'. I would say '... in your free time' or perhaps '... with your free time' (because we can do things 'with' time).

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Nagie23 on Wed, 21/02/2024 - 17:04

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Hello,
I would like to ask which of the following is correct:

1.We can have a lesson the first week of each month OR
2. We can have a lesson every first week of a month
Thank you in advance

Hello Nagie23,

The first sentence is correct. The second is not.

We sometimes use a construction like 'every first week of the month', so you could say this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Has something change in the  grammar part of verbs .There is no space to write questions.

As such,I would like to ask if the following is correct

I paint my hair( I color my hair)

Thank you in advance 

 

Hello Nagie23,

I'm afraid that's not correct. Jonathan already answered this question and suggested the verb 'dye' in his response to your first comment.

Please do not post the same question more than once or on more than one page. This will only slow down our responses to you and other users.

The 'Add new comment' space is now at the bottom of the list of comments. If you go all the way down to the bottom of the page, you will see it there. 

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Fri, 15/12/2023 - 19:49

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hello dear teachers,
why there is " the" for archeologist in the following example ;there seem to be a general meaning for "archeologist but it is not in plural form !

The archeologist, however, may not find it easy to distinguish between hoards originally intended to be reclaimed and valuables buried - perhaps as offerings to supernatural powers - with no reclamation intended.

Hello Mohsen.k77,

It is possible to use a(n), the or no article to express general meaning. Here are the differences:

 

>> A + SINGULAR COUNTABLE NOUN <<

We can use this when we are talking about something which defines the group. For example:

An elephant is an impressive sight.

In other words, being an impressive sight is one of the characteristics of an elephant; if we saw an animal and it was not impressive then we could be fairly sure that it was not an elephant. We are talking about any elephant here – it is true of them all.

 

 



>> THE + SINGULAR NOUN <<

We can use this with general meaning when we are talking about our image or concept of the noun. For example:

The elephant can live for over sixty years.

Here we are not talking about a real elephant, but rather the concept of 'elephant' in our heads.

 

 

>> NO ARTICLE + PLURAL COUNTABLE NOUN or UNCOUNTABLE NOUN <<

We use this to talk about what is normal or typical of a type. It may or may not be true of all individuals but it is typical of most. For example:

Swedish people are tall.

Here we are talking about the average height of Swedes, not any particular person or concept. This is the use in your example.

 

 


The distinctions are subtle but can be important. For example, we can say with general meaning:

Whales are in danger of becoming extinct.

The whale is in danger of becoming extinct.

However, we cannot say:

A whale is in danger of becoming extinct.

This is because being in danger of becoming extinct may be true but it does not define the whale.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter for helping us without ceasing. I would like to ask you to rephrase " The+ singular noun and no article+ plural countable nouns or uncountable nouns.

Can you explain in such a way even a kindergarten student can understand? The language you use is difficult for me. From those two points, I comprehend nothing.

Would you help me to understand? What do you mean when you say" image or concept of a noun? Or "normal or typical of a type?

Thank you in advance

Hi Eline Maro,

I'll try to help!

  1. The + singular noun, e.g. The elephant can live for over sixty years - this can refer to (A) one particular elephant, or (B) any elephant. Meaning (B) is a bit like if I say "I don't like the rain". I'm not talking about any particular rain, but all rain, or rain in general. That's why Peter describes it as a "general meaning".
  2. no article + plural countable nouns or uncountable nouns, e.g. Whales are in danger of becoming extinct - There is no article before "Whales". This means it is talking about whales usually, normally or generally. It isn't talking about any particular whales (that would be "The whales"). That's why Peter describes it as "normal or typical of [whales]".
  3. image or concept of a noun - this is the general meaning, such any elephant (instead of one particular elephant) or all rain or rain in general (instead of particular rain) in point 1, above.
  4. normal or typical of a type - this means the meaning is true not just about one particular thing, but all things of that type. For example, in point 2 above, the sentence is about all whales (not particular whales).

It's tricky to understand but I hope that helps!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by elle_gomez on Sat, 28/10/2023 - 15:51

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so sorry for such a long question but i just want to finally understand it. so please help me!
i can't quite understand the usage of THE and zero article in texts when the words they refer to are subjects.
I know that the means some specific things. but here is the thing. For example:
A lot of people work in Coober Pedy in the opal mines. The opal mines are underground and the houses are underground too.
I understand why we have THE opal mines here because it was mentioned much earlier in the context. even before this extract. but why THE houses? it is the first time the author mentions them. sure i can suppose that it's all the houses that are in Coober Pedy and Coober Pedy is a town, so everybody knows it has houses (and streets, etc.). We don't need a sentence mentioning these. that's why THE houses.

but here is another extract:
So Bloomberg tried to change their habits. Before he was mayor, (zero article) restaurant menus only gave the price of the food. But after 2007 (zero articles) restaurants wrote the number of calories...
Why there isn't THE before restaurant menus and restaurants? it's mentioned for the first time as well. no previous context. but again. it's clear that there are a lot of restaurants in NY and no previous mentioning is needed. so can i put here THE in front of restaurant menus and restaurants?

so all things considered: does it make any difference at all if i either leave THE out or not? or all the 2 options are GRAMATICALLY correct? or by using zero article here they imply SOME?

1) So Bloomberg tried to change their habits. Before he was mayor,(zero article) restaurant menus only gave the price of the food. But after 2007 (zero article) restaurants wrote the number of calories...
2) So Bloomberg tried to change their habits. Before he was mayor, THE restaurant menus only gave the price of the food. But after 2007 THE restaurants wrote the number of calories...

Hi elle_gomez,

I'll try to help. In the sentence about Coober Pedy, that's right. The context is clearly defined (i.e., the town of Coober Pedy), so "the" is used to mean the mines and houses in that particular place. However, it would also be acceptable to say "houses are underground" with no article. Readers would interpret this as "the houses in Coober Pedy", even though no article is used, because of the previous sentence.

In the restaurant example, although these are the first mentions of restaurants and menus, actually a context is given. Bloomberg is mentioned as the mayor, so "restaurants" is clearly referring to restaurants in the place where he was the mayor (New York). No article is used, but it's clear that this refers to restaurants in NY and not restaurants generally. 

It would also be acceptable to say "the restaurant menus" and "the restaurants". But it's not necessary, because the context is defined by the mention of Bloomberg.

So grammatically, yes - in these contexts, it's acceptable both with or without an article. But I would prefer the sentences without "the", since the sentences seem a less heavy and faster to read, while having the same meaning.

Does that make sense? I hope it helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Yes, I am tremendously thankful for your comprehensive answer! Now I see that either the omission or, vice versa, the usage or articles (in all of the aforementioned contexts) is not a mistake. That’s what I needed!
I hope I would not bother you with one more question and one more context:
(the heading) New research shows that video gamers don't live in the real world.
Researchers gave two groups of people a simple test. The first group played...
The same question: are the two options possible? (no previous mention again)
1) “The” researchers gave two groups of people a simple test. (meaning “the researchers of this research”/or since we know that every research has its researchers)
2) (zero article) Researchers gave two groups of people a simple test. (since readers would understand what researchers are implied; not all researchers in the world but those who conducted the research mentioned in the heading).
I think that the two options are possible but the second one is just less heavy.
Share your opinion, please!

Hi elle_gomez,

I'm glad it was helpful. Yes, the sentence is possible both with and without "the". I agree with your interpretations of the meaning!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Annienguyen on Mon, 23/10/2023 - 15:14

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Hi! I noticed that lots of people on social platforms often omit articles when writing captions, descriptions, posts. For example: "preparing for treatment", "first heavy session after minor injury" "go to gym" .... Can you please confirm whether it is grammatically correct? And why?
Thank you so much and have a great day!

Hi Annienguyen,

No, it's not grammatically correct. However, it is perfectly acceptable on social media, where people's main aim is to communicate their ideas, and being grammatically correct is not so important (as long as the meaning is clear enough). Omitting words like this also makes social media messages more concise and faster to write, and gives them a more casual and conversational feel.

(By the way - "preparing for treatment" is fine and not a case of an omitted article, because "treatment" can be uncountable.)

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Nagie23 on Thu, 03/08/2023 - 13:23

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Hello,
I would like to ask which of the following is correct
If someone needs help can we say
1. Please let me know if you need something or
2.Please let me know if you need anything
Thank you in advance

Submitted by chykedon on Sun, 14/05/2023 - 15:46

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Hello,
please is it correct to say '' a lot have changed'' or '' a lot has changed''

Hi chykedon,

It should be "A lot has changed". Even though "a lot" usually means many things, grammatically it is "it", not "they".

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by abuaymen on Sat, 12/11/2022 - 17:07

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Thank you for the reply

Submitted by p t balagopal on Sun, 29/08/2021 - 07:18

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Hi , Is it correct to use 'a' before the word 'sense' in the sentence below? If I replace it with 'the ' what difference in meaning would it make? Kindly let me know. " The book seems to evoke a sense of 'we and others ' in the readers' ---- minds."
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 29/08/2021 - 09:19

In reply to by p t balagopal

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Hello p t balagopal,

It's certainly correct to use 'a' here.

I think you could use 'the' if you had specified a particular sense of 'we and others'. For example, you would need to talk about several kinds of senses of we and others and then specific a particular one. As you can probably see, this seems a very unlikely context!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by p t balagopal on Tue, 09/11/2021 - 13:26

In reply to by p t balagopal

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Sir,
No article has been used before the words 'collector' and 'professor' in the sentence.Why? Could please let me know.

" Jhon had just been promoted to collector and George to professor."

Hello p t balagopal,

This sentence describes positions at work rather than Jhon's profession. In this case, where we're speaking about positions in general, we don't use an article before the name of the position.

Please note, though, that if we wanted to say what Jhon's profession is, we'd say 'Jhon is a collector'.

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by p t balagopal on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 12:18

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Hi, Please let me know whether the use of 'THE' before 'blue and white' in the following sentence is correct. " I request you to change the category of the card from the blue to the white." .Here, the color of the card indicates the level of service offered to the customers of a public distribution system.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 13:40

In reply to by p t balagopal

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Hi p t balagopal,

No, it should be without the both times. Normally we don't put the article before the names of colours, unless there's another noun (e.g. the blue category / the blue one).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Thank you Are these nouns [ category or one ] implied after blue and white? Or is it that "THE' must not be added If they are not mentioned at all?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 06/07/2021 - 04:01

In reply to by p t balagopal

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Hi p t balagopal,

Yes, blue and white clearly refer to category in that sentence, but it would be very unusual to use the. In fact, I understand blue and white as adjectives here (not nouns).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by p t balagopal on Sun, 04/07/2021 - 12:30

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Hi, I am very confused about the use of 'THE' in the following sentence. " The stars seem very beautiful tonight". Could you please explain?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 07:39

In reply to by p t balagopal

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Hello p t balagopal,

The speaker is talking about the stars that are visible tonight (which are not all the stars in the universe). The person they are speaking to is probably also looking at the stars. By using 'the', the speaker shows that they are confident that the listener knows which specific group of stars (in this case, the group of stars seems to be all the stars they can see in the sky at that time, on that night, in that particular place) they are talking about.

The sentence 'Stars are very beautiful tonight' wouldn't be correct because there is a conflict: 'stars' refers to all the stars that exist in the universe, but 'tonight' limits the sentence to talking only about the stars visible in that specific situation.

'Stars are very beautiful' is a correct sentence. It is a general statement not limited to a particular situation.

I hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gendeng on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 11:45

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Which is correct, at or on? Lessons on The LearnEnglish are very useful. Lessons at The LearnEnglish are very useful.

Submitted by Crix_B on Fri, 18/12/2020 - 15:48

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Hello. I want to ask a question. I have to take an exam next summer and I can't find anything about the omission of the article and the subject. Can I receive a piece of guidance?

Hello Crix_B,

Are you referring to 'ellipsis'? I'm afraid it's not clear to me what exactly you're referring to.

In general, the comments are a space where we can help our users who have questions about our materials or who have short, specific questions related to our content. We're happy to point you to other resources, but could you provide an example of what you mean to help us understand what your question is?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by MPhayTp on Sat, 14/11/2020 - 10:16

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Dear Team, 1)This is the place where John proposed to Mia. When I want to tell the listener about a place which he doesn't know, then Shouldn't we use 'a instead of 'the'? 2) This is a beautiful place. (If the listener already know about the place, Shouldn't we use "the" instead of "a"? Thank You!!!
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 03:53

In reply to by MPhayTp

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Hi DaniWeebKage,

Good questions! I'll put my answers below.

  1. No, we need the in this sentence. Although the listener may not know this place, the speaker means a very specific and defined place: the place where John proposed to Mia. (I am assuming that John proposed to Mia only once.) If you say This is a place where John proposed to Mia, it means that John proposed to Mia several times and in different places, and this place is one of them.
  2. Yes, you could use the if the listener knows the place, especially if the speaker has spoken about it before. But it would be more common to refer explicitly to that previous conversation, e.g. This is the beautiful place that I told you about. Otherwise, the reference to the previous conversation may not be clear. But, there is another possible (and maybe more commonly used) meaning: we can say a beautiful place if we mean that this place is not the only beautiful place in the world; it's one of them. Even if the listener already knows this place, the definite article goes with the first noun as an alternative to This, e.g. The/This beach is a beautiful place.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nagie23 on Sun, 08/11/2020 - 08:32

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Hi, I would like to ask the following When we are talking about a specific book we say The book Is the following correct The book is interesting. This book is interesting. Is it the same meaning? This book is mine The book is mine Is it the same meaning? Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 09/11/2020 - 08:00

In reply to by Nagie23

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Hi Nagie23,

We use the definite article the when we can say that the item is identified and known to both the speaker and the listener (or writer and reader). Thus, if I say 'the book' then I am making an assumption that you know which book I am talking about.

Determiners such as this and that are slightly different. They also refer to a particular item, but they implicitly contrast the item with other items. When I say 'this book' I mean 'not that book/those books'. Thus, while 'the book' depends on existing knowledge (you already know which book we are talking about), 'this book' serves to identify the book in contrast to other books (you did not know which book we are talking about and I am identifying it for you).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Nujome on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 20:30

In reply to by Nagie23

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The first one you used the article the which means you and the listener exactly know what are you talking about . The second sentence you used demonstrative (this) which is clear the book could be one meter away from you and you can see it. (Both sentences are correct . I hope you get better answers from teachers because I'm not native speaker just a learner like you

Submitted by AllyEnglish on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 08:50

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Hello there, Hope all is well. I came across the terms "Definite Determiner" and "Indefinite Determiner", I can't figure out what that is. I found a few questions in a book where they ask to identify whether the words in quotes are Definite or Indefinite. Do they just refer to the usage of definite (the) and indefinite (a, an) articles? 1. Internet radio stations have added "a new dimension". 2. ...which could affect "the speed of other activities" that you indulge in online. 3. ...especially those who love music from all over "the world". Appreciate the help :-)

Hello AllyEnglish,

Yes, it sounds to me as if they mean what you suggest.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team