Specific and general determiners

Learn about different determiners like the, their, these, any and other and do the exercises to practise using them.

Level: beginner

Determiners are words which come at the beginning of noun phrases. They tell us whether a noun phrase is specific or general.

Specific determiners

The specific determiners are:

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?
Thank you very much for your letter.
Whose coat is this?
Look at those lovely flowers.

Specific determiners 1

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Specific determiners 2

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Specific determiners 3

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Specific determiners 4

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General determiners

We use a general determiner when we are talking about things in general and the listener/reader does not know exactly what we are referring to.

The general determiners are:

a/an 0 (no determiner) any another other

The most frequent general determiner is the indefinite article a/an used with singular nouns:

A man came this morning and left a parcel.
He was wearing a big coat and a cap
.

We use no determiner with plural nouns and uncount nouns:

Girls normally do better in school than boys. (plural nouns)
Milk is very good for you. (uncount noun)
Health and education are very important. (uncount nouns)

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. = all cars
I like bananas, oranges, apples – any fruit. = all kinds of fruit

(Note that any is also used as a quantifier in negative and interrogative sentences.)

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.

General determiners 1

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General determiners 2

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Specific and general determiners 1

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Specific and general determiners 2

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Submitted by Hesham3bbas on Sat, 12/11/2022 - 08:52

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In exercise: General determiners 1
We used an with ice cream but ice cream is uncountable.
Is this sentence correct ?

Hello Hesham3bbas,

That's a good question. In general, 'ice cream' is indeed an uncount noun, but it can also be used as a count noun. In this case, for example, 'an ice cream' means 'an ice cream cone' or 'a bowl of ice cream' or 'a serving of ice cream' (or something like that).

The same often happens with other uncount nouns like 'water' ('a bottle of water' is often referred to as 'a water'), 'coffee' ('a coffee' means 'a cup of coffee'), 'a sugar' ('a packet of sugar'). You can read more about this on our Common problems with count and uncount nouns page.

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team