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

Hi, Can you please tell me the difference between every and all.
Context, I need a copy of every page of the document.
I need a copy of all pages of the document.

Which is 'more' correct

Thanks

Hello Sheree99,

There's a detailed explanation of this on the Cambridge Dictionary's All or every page? Please take a look at that and then if you have any other specific questions, you're welcome to ask us here.

As you'll see when you read through that page, you could say both 'every page' or 'all the pages' are correct and mean pretty much the same thing -- they just view the pages either as separate units or a single one.

'all the pages' is better than 'all pages' because 'all' + noun is generally used to refer to literally all pages everywhere, whereas here you're talking about a specific document, i.e. a specific set of pages.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, Great. Thanks for the reply. I thought that was the case but, although it many sound strange, as a native English speaker who was never taught Grammer, I wasn't 100% sure of the answer. I had a person who speaks English as a second language ask me. Luckily I have him the correct answer but it was still bugging me in case I was incorrect! Thanks:)

And thanks for referring the Cambridge Dictionary to me.

Hello,

'Rent makes up half of the living expenses'

Is the only reason we don't use ''a'' before half because half of expenses is still an uncountable noun?

Thank you in advance

Hello JakiGeh,

The use of articles with 'half' is not entirely consistent. It is possible to use 'a' here:

... a half of the living expenses

And this follows the pattern of other fractions:

... a third of ...

... a quarter of ...

... a tenth of ...

However, no article is much more common with 'half'. It is not dependent on the noun which follows:

I'll have half of the money, please.

I'll use half of the apple in this recipe.

Give me half of the chairs.

 

This is an example of a word which is common enough to have developed idiosyncrasies in its use, I'm afraid.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello ,
Is it possible to use the word "eye" to refer to a person ?
EX: 10 eyes looked at him
that means ten persons or just five
Thanks in advance

Hello Bassant El-Ghazaly,

It is possible to say something like this. It has a literary ring to it and would be unusual in other contexts.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Am I correct that in the sentence 'What I want is some milk.', that 'What' is acting as a general determiner before the pronoun 'I' that follows it. Thank you for help.

Hello Atlas,

There doesn't seem to be a clear consensus on what part of speech 'what' is in a pseudo-cleft sentence such as this one, but I'd call it a pronoun, as it is the object of 'I want' and head of the relative clause 'What I want'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

My question, and if possible, could you note a rule that supports, if a determiner or quantifier, is not used for example: "Trees have leaves." Does this mean "All trees have leaves."?

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