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Determiners and quantifiers

Determiners and quantifiers are words we use in front of nouns. We use determiners to identify things (this book, my sister) and we use quantifiers to say how much or how many (a few people, a lot of problems).

Read clear grammar explanations and example sentences to help you understand how determiners and quantifiers are used. Then, put your grammar knowledge into practice by doing the exercises.  

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Dear sirs,

I wrote the following sentence: "when love marriage takes place across caste groups in India, the intermarrying couple faces a complicated problem."

But I am confused about using an article before the noun "love marriage." I have used love marriage without an article thinking that it is not a concrete marriage event (or it's an abstract noun). But I also feel like I have to use a or the or the plural form (love marriages).

I really appreciate your comment on my reasoning.

Hello cbenglish,

The term love marriage is used in the same way as marriage in terms of the use of articles. For general use all articles are possible, but there are slight differences in meaning.

a + singular countable noun

we can use this with general meaning when we are talking about something which defines the group.

For example:

An elephant is an impressive sight.

In other words, being an impressive sight is one of the characteristics of an elephant; if we saw an animal and it was not impressive then we could be fairly sure that it was not an elephant.  We are talking about any elephant here - it is true of them all.


the + singular noun

we can use this with general meaning when we are talking about our image or concept of the noun.

For example:

The elephant can live for over sixty years.

Here we are not talking about a real elephant, but rather the concept of 'elephant' in our heads.


no article + plural countable noun or uncountable noun

we use this to talk about what is normal or typical of a type.  It may or may not be true of all individuals but it is typical of most.

For example:

Swedish people are tall.

Here we are talking about the average height of Swedes, not any particular person or concept.


The distinctions are subtle but sometimes can be important.

For example, we can say with general meaning:

Whales are in danger of becoming extinct.

The whale is in danger of becoming extinct.


However, we cannot say:

A whale is in danger of becoming extinct.

This is because being in danger of becoming extinct may be true but it does not define the whale.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Very helpful explaination sir.

Now, can we also say - without article- ' Elephant is an impressive sight. ' This is because what I understand is that when the case is general - we can opt for zero article.

Abou your 'Whale's' example - can we also say ' The whales are in danger of becoming extinct ' - plural with definite article.

Abou not using 'a' in ' Whale's ' example - this is for the first time I am learning that using 'a' would cause to define the noun . If you could enlighten me on this concept.
Also, how would the meanings in ' Love marriage' example change with different articles with singular and plural cases?
I am eager to know all these because I have never come across such a detailed explaination about changes in meanings with changes in articles .

Thanking you

Hello dipakrgandhi,

In my explanation I said we can use no article + plural countable noun or uncountable noun. 'Elephant' is a countable noun, so we need to say

Elephants are an impressive sight.


'The whales' would refer to a particular group of whales, not whales in general. For example, you might talk about 'the whales of the Atlantic Ocean' or similar.


When we say

A whale is an impressive sight

we are talking about a characteristic that is typical or representative of whales: being impressive is one of the things that goes with being a whale.


The reason we can't say

A whale might become extinct

is because being extinct is not something that happens to a whale, and not something which defines what a whale is.


The changes in 'love marriage' would be the same as the examples I gave. The choice of noun does not affect this.



The LeanEnglish Team

Thank you !

Are words like "John's","Rahim's" determiners?

Another one,Sir.

Is the sentence"If I were a king!" correct?
Thank you.

Hi Sheikh Salauddin,

Sometimes phrases like 'John's' are considered possessive forms of nouns and sometimes they are classed as a kind of possessive determiner. Since our grammar is a learner's grammar, we don't get into that kind of issue, but I expect you could find some discussion of it in the English Language and Usage StackExchange if you're interested.

'If I were a king!' is technically an incomplete sentence, but would probably be fine in most cases if the result clause were clear from the situation or context.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sirs,

I wrote the following sentence in an essay, which is the very first sentence:

"When we wake up in the morning and listen to the news or read the newspaper, we see the same old old stories."

On re-reading the sentence, I am confused about my use of definite articles in front of news and newspaper. Is it also correct to say?

"When we wake up in the morning and listen to news or read newspapers, we see the same old old stories."

My thinking is that since it's the very first sentence, I should not use definite articles before news and newspaper. Is my reasoning correct? I really appreciate your guidance on the issue.

Thank you very much, as always.

Hi cbenglish,

When we speak about what is explained in radio, television, newspaper or new website reports, we also refer to this as 'the news' (with the definite article 'the' always used). So when you speak about 'listening to the news', it's correct to say 'the news' (and just 'news' is not correct).

You could say just 'read newspapers' instead of 'read the newspapers'. If you say 'the newspapers', there is some suggestion that the reader knows which newspapers you're talking about, but not necessarily. If it were my essay, I would most likely say 'the newspapers', as we often use 'the' here even when it's not completely clear which newspapers we're talking about.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir.
Could u tell me the difference between determiner and quantifier?
What are pre-, central, and post determiners?

Thank you,