Specific and general determiners

Specific and general determiners
Specific and general determiners

Specific and general determiners

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:

  • the definite articlethe
  • possessivesmy, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose
  • demonstrativesthis, that, these, those

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.

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.

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