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.





Can we use "a/an" before a noun showing relation.

For e.g Catherine has_____ in London.

Can we say "an" if I want to say she have 1 aunt.

Hello amol,

The indefinite article is used before non-specified countable nouns. Nouns describing relations are no different from any other nouns in this regard. Thus we would say 'an aunt' in your example if it is the first time we have mentioned her. Once we know which aunt is being referred to then we would say 'the aunt'.



The LearnEnglish Team


Can we use any article before the word showing nationality?

e.g John is ______Spanish.

I think, in the above example, the word "Spanish" is used as an adjective, so no article is required.

I am confused. :-*


Hello amol,

Articles are used before nouns so when an adjective is used without a noun no article is needed. This we would not use an article in your example.

It is possible to use the definite article before certain adjectives to describe a group: the rich, the poor, the Spanish, the English, the sick, the healthy, the old, the young etc.



The LearnEnglish Team


What article do we use before "hotel"

If I want to say, They stayed in ______ hotel.

Hi amol,

Both 'a' and 'the' are possible here and I'm afraid it's not possible to answer your question without knowing what the speaker means. Please see our Articles 1, Articles 2, and our indefinite and definite article pages for more information about what they mean and how they are used.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Can an article be added before an adjective?

'Titanic had an advanced safety features'
Is it correct to add 'an' here?
Please explain in details.

Hello Sad,

Articles are a part of the noun phrase and are connected to the noun. The adjective does not change this. However, we do not use 'a' or 'an' with plural verbs, so that is a mistake in your sentence ('features' is a plural noun). You could say:

The Titanic had advanced safety features. [more than one]

The Titanic had an advanced safety feature. [one]



The LearnEnglish Team

Plus one more thing.

'An English language teacher'

Using 'an' here, considered correct or not?
Although it is referred to 'teacher' which does not take 'an'

Please clarify


Hi Sad,

'an English teacher' is correct. My response below should hopefully help you understand this. If not, please see this page.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team