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.




Dear Sirs,
I wrote the following sentences:
1. Hinduism is followed by millions in India.
2. Hindu religion is followed by millions in India.
I felt that the first sentence is correct, but I could not be sure about the second one. It could be right but I felt that the sentence should read "The Hindu religion..." (i.e., the term Hindu religion should be preceded by the definite article). Am I right in my thinking? Or both are correct? If the term Hindu religion requires the definite article, what is the reason for this?
Thank you very much.

Hello cbenglish,

You are correct. No article is used in the first sentence because 'Hinduism' is an abstract noun and so no article is used. You could use the definite article if you want to distinguish between different versions of Hinduism:

the Hunduism of modern India

the Hinduism of the Indian diaspora


In the second sentence the definite article is needed because you are specifying which of a number of religions you are describing. If you talk about religion as an abstract concept then no article is needed:

every society, as far as we know, has created for itself some form of religion

for many people, religion is a key part of their identity

We do not use articles with the proper names of religions, so we say Islam, Christianity, Hunduism, Judaism, Buddhism and so on. However, if we specify a particular religion by using an adjective then we use the definite article:

the Christian religion grew out of the Jewish faith



The LearnEnglish Team

Many many thanks. I feel like I will never be able to fully understand the proper use of articles. I can parrot the rules, but when it comes to putting the rules into practice, I just fumble!

nice and thank you. but if test organinzed by sentence that will be more helpful for us.

A Foolish Stag or The Foolish Stag...which is correct and why?

Hello Shahid,

If this refers to the name of a pub then The Foolish Stag would be correct. Names of pubs in the UK generally use the definite article (The Dog and Duck, The Garret, The Duke of York etc).



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir.

Hello sir,
in the following sentence should it be a plural noun or singular after the determiner any ?
•We should wash our hands and feet to avoid any (infections / infection).
As per my understanding in this sentence singular 'infection' seems correct. Sir am I right?

Hello amrita_enakshi,

With countable nouns we use the plural form after 'any', and with uncountable nouns we use the singular. 'Infection' can be used as a countable or an uncountable noun and so both singular and plural are possible in this sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear Peter M,
Thank you, thanks a lot.