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.




If the question was " Are the trees looked after by the gardener ? " ...................What would the answer be ? yes, they are or yes , he does
Thank you in advance

Hello Bassant El-Ghazaly,

The question here is about the trees, not the gardener, so the answer must be also about the trees:

Are the trees looked after by the gardener? Yes, they are.

Does the gardener look after the trees? Yes, he does.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

i really need some help :)
could you tell me if these words are determiners or other thing ( between quotation marks)
- he was a friend of "mine"
- he has never seen "such" a pack of wolves
- she is "my friend's" daughter
thank you in advance

Hello raj-ay1,

You can find out what kind of words these are by searching for them in the Cambridge Dictionary. If you look up 'such', for example, you'll see what I mean.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

What does the word such in the following sentence mean ( He is such a man, woman, student, etc.) ?
Thanks in advance

Hi zagrus,

It means something like 'this kind of', but more than that it is impossible to say without knowing the context.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone!
Could you please tell me which part is missing in the sentence below?

"Please be sure everybody has their ticket ready to give to the man at the door."

My teacher told me that it should be "has the ticket ready" but I was not really sure while both "their" and "the" are determiner.

Hi Mauludin,

There is nothing missing from the sentence you quote - it is complete.

You can use 'the' or 'their' in the sentence. I think 'their' is more likely but both are possible.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, dear British Council friends!
Can you explain, which is correst" "This is us" or "These are us", and why? "This" is supposed to be used only with singulars, but I often see sentences like
"This is us",
"This is them",
"This is the girls I told you about"

Hello Innasib,

We can use 'this' when we have in mind the group as a whole. Thus, it is possible to say 'This is us' when you really mean 'This group is us'. However, it is somewhat non-standard and used only in certain contexts - particularly with pronouns rather than full nouns.

I think 'These are the girls' would be the correct form for your last example rather than 'This is...'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team