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.




Hello Jaypee,

Adjectives and numbers come between determiners and quantifiers and the nouns they accompany:

The red house

The two sheep

Other than these the determiner or quantifier generally come immediately before the noun unless the word order is changed for rhetorical effect:

There are many problems, in my opinion.

There are many - in my opinion - problems.



The LearnEnglish Team

Can adverb be preceded by determiner or quantifiers???

Hello Jaypee,

As is explained above, determiners and quantifiers come at the head of a noun phrase. In other words, they modify nouns. They do not modify adverbs. Only adverbs modify other adverbs.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Are both correct?
God forgive all of your sins.
God forgive all your sins.

Hello Zeeshan Siddiqii,

Yes, both sentences are grammatically correct and there is no difference in meaning.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

i want to ask , why the word "any" use in positive sentences ?
in the book I read any not for positive sentence but for negative sentence

Hello putridp9,

The determiner 'any' has two main meanings: one is to refer to indefinite quantities and the other means something like 'it doesn't matter which one'.

When 'any' is referring to indefinite quantities, we typically use it only in negative or interrogative sentences.

When 'any' means 'it doesn't matter which one' (which is the way it is used above), then it can be used in an affirmative sentences.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again and thanks for your support....I have a question about prepositions. Starting to write about a past holiday, what's the correct preposition to use before this noun?
On my last holiday I went to....
For my last holiday I went to....
Thanks a lot.

Hello Ilariuccia,

In this context we would say 'for'. We could use 'on' when describing things that happened during the holiday:

For my last holiday I went to Cyprus.

On/During my last holiday I met a really nice guy who worked as a musician.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team