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Knowing the proper use of determiners is very important to make proper use of nouns. I believe this ultimate guide to using determiners can be your best-helping hand if you want to use proper English while writing or speaking.
Determiners are adjectives and modifiers that are used before nouns to determine or clarify the identity of the nouns and give extra information about them. Determiners describe the specification, possession, quantity, and quality of the nouns. The, that, my, some, and one are some examples of determiners.
Examples in sentences:
- She looked out the window to see if the rain had stopped.
- That boy in the red t-shirt is my youngest son.
- I need some rest before I start doing the dishes.
- Please give me one more chance to finish the project.
- Why are Determiners Important in English
- How to Use Articles as a Determiner
- How to Use Demonstrative Pronouns as a Determiner
- How to Use Possessive Pronouns as a Determiner
- How to Use Quantifiers as a Determiner
- How to Use Numbers as a Determiner
- How to Use Distributives as a Determiner
- How to Use Determiners to Show Differences
- When and How to Use Pre-determiners
- In Conclusion
The following list shows the determiners in English:
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Why are Determiners Important in English
English determiners are important because they help nouns to be specific and make the sentence more meaningful and easy to interpret. Nouns can be very confusing in some contexts.
For example, “They have black car.” We’re not sure about the number of cars (Noun) the speaker is talking about in this sentence. Instead, “They have a black car” gives a complete meaning with no confusion left.
To know more about the importance and uses of determiners, along with other grammatical elements, you can have a look at McGraw-Hill’s Essential ESL Grammar: A Handbook for Intermediate and Advanced ESL Students (Amazon link).
How to Use Articles as a Determiner
Articles are determiners, significantly used to determine the standard of nouns. They help to identify whether the nouns refer to anything specific or unspecific. Articles are of two types: definite and indefinite. “The” is the only definite article used to refer to specific nouns, and “A” and “An” are the indefinite articles used to refer to unspecific nouns.
- I need to borrow a book from you.
- Please buy me an umbrella.
- He is the poet I have always wanted to meet.
To learn more about Articles in English, you can have a look at A Complete Guide to Using Articles in English Grammar.
How to Use Demonstrative Pronouns as a Determiner
“This,” “that,” “those,” and “these” are called demonstrative pronouns that refer to who or what we are talking about by replacing a noun. These pronouns can also act as determiners when they introduce a noun rather than replace it.
Let’s see the following example.
In the above sentence, “These” is a determiner when I said, “These states are very popular in the USA.” “These” is a demonstrative pronoun that refers to the states “Texas, Florida, and California.” As “These” is placed before the noun “States,” it acts as a determiner here.
If I said, “These are the popular states of the USA,” “these” would act as a demonstrative pronoun, not a determiner, as the word “These” directly replaces the words “Texas, Florida, and California.”
There are four demonstrative pronouns in English:
- “This” is used to refer to something that is singular and near to you.
- I like this place.
- This is not my pen.
- Is this your pet?
- “That” is used to refer to something that is singular and far from you.
- I want that shirt.
- That is not a good bike.
- Is that burger healthy?
- “These” is used to refer to something that is plural and near to you.
- These are beautiful flowers.
- I don’t like these dresses.
- Are these good for health?
- “Those” is used to refer to something that is plural and far from you.
- Those boys are tremendous.
- We don’t prefer those items.
- Have you ever been to those places?
How to Use Possessive Pronouns as a Determiner
Words that we use as adjectives to express ownership or possession are called possessive determiners or possessive adjectives. Sometimes we get confused between possessive determiners and possessive pronouns.
Remember! Possessive determiners are always used before nouns with a view to showing ownership or possession. They cannot be used alone without a noun. On the other hand, Possessive pronouns are used to replace nouns. They are used alone; no noun is required with it.
Example: He is looking for his cellphone.
The above example shows that the possessive “his” takes a noun (cell phone) before that. Thus, “his” is a possessive determiner here.
Example: My brother said there is a shirt in the closet, but it’s his.
The above example shows that the possessive “his” takes no noun before them. Thus, “his” is a possessive determiner here.
The Difference between Possessive Determiners and Possessive Pronouns
|Possessive Determiners||Example Sentences||Possessive Pronouns||Example Sentences|
|My||This is my cat.||Mine||This cat is mine.|
|Your||Is this your bag?||Yours||This bag is yours.|
|His||This is his bike.||His||The black bike is his.|
|Her||This is her bicycle.||Hers||This bicycle is hers.|
|Its||The cat licked its legs.||Its||Its dress is dirty.|
|Our||We have sold our car.||Ours||This car is ours.|
|Their||I like your dress.||Theirs||These dresses are theirs.|
Caution! Be careful about using contractions.
Your vs. You’re
“Your” is the possessive determiner, whereas “You’re” is the contraction of “You are.”
- Is this your bike? (Possessive determiner)
- You’re a good biker. (Contraction of “You are”)
Its vs. It’s
“Its” is the possessive determiner, whereas “It’s” is the contraction of “It is.”
- I am impressed by its performance. (Possessive determiner)
- It’s a very good machine. (Contraction of “It is”)
Their vs. They’re
“Their” is the possessive determiner, whereas “They’re” is the contraction of “They are.”
- Which is their car? (Possessive determiner)
- They’re good at teamwork. (Contraction of “They are”)
How to Use Quantifiers as a Determiner
Quantifiers are words used to express the quantity of any object. Like other determiners, they are also usually placed before nouns. On some occasions, quantifiers can be used without a noun if it’s clear what we are referring to.
Example: Do you want some milk? (“Some” is a quantifier placed before the noun “milk.”)
Example: Do you want some milk? – Just a little. (It’s clear that I mean “a little milk.”)
There are different quantifiers to describe—
- Large quantities: a lot, a lot of, much, many
- Small quantities: a little, a bit, a few
- Undefined quantities: some, any
- Sufficient amount: enough, plenty
We use “many,” “much,” “a lot of,” and “a lot” to refer to large quantities. “Many” is used with countable nouns, and “much” is used with uncountable nouns. We can use “a lot” or “a lot of” with both countable and uncountable nouns.
- Many people are standing here.
- We have a lot of tasks to do. Be hurry.
- Much Italian wine is found in this bar.
- I like him a lot.
To emphasize a “very large quantity,” we add “so” in front of “many” and “much.”
- There were so many students in the classroom.
- Raymond has so much work to do.
We use “a few,” “a little,” “a bit of,” and “a bit” to talk about small quantities. We use “a few” with countable nouns and “a little” with uncountable nouns. It’s also possible to use “a bit” or “a bit of” with uncountable nouns, but it’s informal.
- I need a few coins.
- Do you want a little milk in your tea?
- I need a bit of salt.
- I like it a bit.
When we want to refer to “a small quantity” negatively, we use “few” or “little.”
- Few trains arrive timely.
- You always pay little attention to my problems.
We use “some” and “any” to refer to a plural noun or an uncountable noun without giving a specific quantity. We use “some” in affirmatives and “any” in questions and negatives.
- They have some free time this afternoon.
- He doesn’t want any tea.
- Do you need any bread?
- Give me some mangoes.
Exception! In making requests or offers, we usually use “some,” not “any.”
- Can I have some salt, please?
- Would you care for some chocolates?
The words “enough,” “plenty,” and “plenty of” are used to express the idea of being “a sufficient quantity.” All of them can go with countable and uncountable nouns. We use “plenty” or “plenty of” to mean there is more than a sufficient quantity of something.
- We don’t need more plates; there are plenty!
- They’ve got plenty of time to get to the bus stand station.
- I have plenty of books.
We use “enough” to express the idea of having, or not having, or a sufficient quantity.
- We have enough fruits.
- We have not bought enough vegetables.
When we want to ask about the quantity of something, we use “how much” or “how many.”
- How many students were at the seminar?
- How much time do you need?
- How much water shall I take?
We also use “how much” when we ask about the cost of something.
- How much does this watermelon cost?
- How much does this mobile cost?
How to Use Numbers as a Determiner
When numbers appear before nouns, they act as a determiner. Numbers are of two kinds: cardinal and ordinal. Cardinal number expresses quantity, and ordinal numbers express sequence.
- There are five books on the table. (“Five” is a cardinal number expressing quantity.)
- He is the first boy in the class. (“First” is an ordinal number expressing sequence.)
Note: There are some other words like “last,” “latter,” “next,” “previous,” and “subsequent.” They are called “General Ordinals” since they are not directly associated with numbers, as “fifth” is associated with “five,” “twelfth” is associated with “twelve,” etc. These words also function as determiners.
- I’ll go home next week.
- Go back to the previous page.
Warning! Numbers can also be used as nouns. Don’t get confused.
- Five threes are fifteen. (“Threes” is used as a noun here, and “Five” is used as a determiner.)
How to Use Distributives as a Determiner
Distributive determiners are words used to express how something is distributed or shared, or divided. “Each,” “every,” “either,” “neither,” “all,” “both,” and “half” are the distributives.
- Each student got a prize.
- Every student got a prize.
- All children need care.
- I walked half a mile.
- Both of them went to school.
- Either answer is correct.
- Neither answer is correct.
How to Use “Each” and “Every” as a Determiner
“Each” is a determiner used to refer to the members of a group as individuals. On the other hand, we use “Every” to refer to a group as a collection of members. These two determiners are used with singular countable nouns. Like other determiners, they are usually placed before the noun. In many cases, they are interchangeable.
- I gave each of them a pen.
- Every morning, I go for a walk.
How to Use “All” as a Determiner
“All” is used to talk about a whole group, with a special emphasis on the fact that nothing has been left out. As a determiner, “All” can be used in different patterns. “All” is also used with uncountable nouns and plural countable nouns. In this case, it refers to the group as a concept rather than as individuals.
- All meat contains protein.
- I liked all the poems.
“All” is used with uncountable nouns as well as plural countable nouns preceded by “the” or a possessive pronoun. In this context, the meaning refers to a concrete, physical group rather than a concept. In these cases, the word “of” can be added just after “all” with no change in meaning.
- All the students attended the last class.
- All of the books are written by him.
“All” is used with plural pronouns preceded by of.
- All of us waited for you.
- He fooled all of you.
- Do you want to buy all of them?
“All” is used in interrogative and exclamatory sentences with non-count nouns preceded by “this” or “that.” In these cases, the word “of” can be added just after “all” with no meaning changes.
- You made all this mess!
- Why is all of that salt fallen here?
“All” is used in interrogative and exclamatory sentences with countable nouns preceded by “these” or “those.” In these contexts, the word “of” can be added just after “all” with no meaning change.
- Look at all those flowers!
- When did all of those boys come?
- Where are all these girls going?
How to Use “Half” as a Determiner
“Half” is used to talk about the division of something or a whole group in two. It can be used to refer to measurements. In this case, an indefinite article (a or an) is placed after the determiner “half.” preceded by an indefinite article.
- I had half a cup of coffee in the morning.
- They walked half a mile today.
“Half” is used with nouns preceded by “the,” “a,” “a demonstrative,” or a “possessive pronoun,” and the meaning refers to concrete or physical division. In this context, the word mentioned above is added after “half.”
- Half the players are already in the queue.
- Did you drink half my juice?
- I gave half of that money.
“Half” can also be used with plural pronouns preceded by “of.”
- Half of us are ready.
- He talked to half of you.
- Couldn’t you find half of them?
How to Use “Both” as a Determiner
“Both” is used to express a whole pair. It is used with plural nouns only as it refers to two things. “of” is also used after both and before the noun in sentences.
- Both teachers are from Canada.
- Both of the players are good at dribbling.
“Both” can be followed by a plural pronoun, but “of” must be placed in between “both” and the pronoun.
- Both of us like traveling.
- I asked both of them to talk about the matter.
How to Use “Either” and “Neither” as a Determiner
“Either” is used before singular nouns to refer to n members of the pair in a positive sense. When used with a plural noun or pronoun, “either” must be followed by “of.”
- Either answer is correct.
- Either of them can do it.
“Either” can be used with “or” to talk about the options of a pair. In such cases, “either” functions as a connecting word.
- You can come either tonight or tomorrow morning.
- Either he or she has to do it.
“Neither” is used before singular nouns to refer to no member of the whole group. When used with a plural noun or pronoun, “neither” must be followed by “of.”
- Neither player is fit to play.
- Neither of us was on time.
“Neither” can be used with “nor” to talk about members as options of a group. In such cases, “neither” functions as a connecting word.
- It is neither good nor bad.
- He is neither fat nor slim.
How to Use Determiners to Show Differences
The words “other” and “another” are used before nouns to show differences. “Other” is used alone or after “some,” “any,” and “no.”
- Do you have other ideas?
- You can eat some other fruits.
“Another” is used with singular count nouns. In the case of uncountable nouns, “another” is often used to measure words that are singular.
- You can have another car.
- Would you prefer another cup of drink?
When and How to Use Pre-determiners
Pre-determiners are used to express an opinion about the noun. “what” and “such” are two common pre-determiners that are usually used before indefinite articles that follow an adjective modifying a noun.
- What a lovely place!
- He is such a strong man.
“Rather” and “quite” are two other pre-determiners used to refer to the degree of an adjective that modifies the noun.
- She is quite a beautiful lady.
- It’s rather a silly mistake.
With everything that you’ve learned from this article about determiners and their usage, you should now be able to use them properly in your writing. If you can put it into practice, your writing quality will be much better and more efficient.
Thanks for reading.