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.



Some times first letter of every word in a heading or title of an article is capitalized, except for article 'the'.

e.g. this headline : 'Sinking Deeper Into the MSP Mire'
Hear MSP means Minimum support price for agriculture commodities.
I would like to know the different conventions in beginning every word in heading with capital letter , and why 'the' starts with lowercase letter in above heading.

Hello dipakrgandhi,

The convention for titles is to capitalise each word other than what are considered 'grammar words' (articles, prepositions etc). However, a specific style will be set by each publication and some prefer to use normal capitalisation, for example. The best way to familiarise yourself with these styles is to look at a range of newspapers and other media sources and pay attention to how they do it.



The LearnEnglish Team

I wrote the following first sentence while forwarding an application to the higher authorities .

" The application for the revival of the account no 3857DF received from the depositor ,Mr. John is sent herewith."

Here , I am introducing an application of which the higher authorities have no prior knowledge . So I must have used ' an application '.
But when a noun is post modified by a prepositional phrase { ' for revival ----}
, definite article should be used as I did .

Which is correct ?
Similarly can I use 'application for revival ' instead of 'application for the revival ' ?
Kindly explain .

Hello p t balagopal,

The definite article is required here as the sentence contains its own clarification of which application is being referred to. You can use either 'the revival' or 'revival'. However, we would not use any article before 'account'. When a noun is numbered in this way we use the zero article. Thus, we would say 'go to house number 3' not 'the house'.


The setence would therefore be as follows:

The application for revival of account no 3857DF received from the depositor, Mr. John, is sent herewith.


This is a very formal phrasing, however, and not the normal way we would normally phrase it. I think we would use 'enclosed' (if the application is part of a letter) or 'attached' (if sent electronically):

Please find enclosed the application for revival of account no 3857DF, received from the depositor, Mr. John.

Please find attached the application for revival of account no 3857DF, received from the depositor, Mr. John.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your reply. I never expected it to be so detailed. Thanks for your effort.


A friend asked: is the statement "what did James is wrong" correct or grammatically wrong?

Hello Akong,

The sentence is wrong. The correct sentence would be as follows:

What James did is wrong.




The LearnEnglish Team


Which of these sentences is correct

1 "What John did is wrong"
2 "What John did was wrong"

Then sir, in the correct sentence, does "what" serve as DEMONSTRATIVE or INTEROGATIVE determiner?

Hi Akong,

Both are correct and the structure of both is that of a wh-cleft sentence. 'what' acts as a kind of pronoun here.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,

I am confused with the use of nouns in the following sentence:

1. The German or The Germans are patriot.

Which one is correct?

Thanks in advance.