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English determiners

An important role in English grammar is played by determiners – words or phrases that precede a noun or noun phrase and serve to express its reference in the context. The most common of these are the definite and indefinite articles, the and a(n). Other deteminers in English include demonstratives such as this and that, possessives such as my and the boy's, and quantifiers such as all, many and three. In many contexts the presence of some determiner is required in order to form a complete noun phrase. However in some cases complete noun phrases are formed without any determiner (sometimes referred to as "zero determiner" or "zero article"), as in the sentence Apples are fruit. Determiners can also be used in certain combinations, as in my many friends or all the chairs.

The terminology used in accounts of English grammar to refer to determiners is very varied. Sometimes the term is not used at all, and the words classed here as determiners (apart from the articles) are classed as adjectives (but see Determiners and adjectives below). In the present article a broad view is taken of what constitutes a determiner; it includes the articles and words and phrases that can substitute for them, as well as words and phrases serving as quantitifiers. This means that determiners as construed here include words from the determiner class, such as the, this, my, many, etc., as well as nominal possessives (John's, the tall boy's) and other specifying or quantifying phrases such as more than three, almost all, and this size (as in this size shoes). Note that many words or phrase that serve as determiners can also play the role of pronouns; for example, the word all is a determiner in the sentences All men are equal and I know all the rules, but a pronoun in All's well that ends well. In other cases there is a related but distinct pronoun form; for example the determiners my and no have corresponding pronouns mine and none. Determiners that consist of phrases rather than single words might be called determiner phrases, although this should probably be avoided as the term is also used to refer to a noun phrase headed by a determiner (see Determiner phrase).

Common determiners
The following is a rough classification of determiners used in English, including both words and phrases:

Definite determiners, which imply that the referent of the resulting noun phrase is defined specifically: o The definite article the. o The demonstratives this and that, with respective plural forms these and those. o Possessives, including those corresponding to pronouns – my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose – and the Saxon genitives formed from other nouns, pronouns and noun phrases (one's, everybody's, Mary's, a boy's, the man we

Those like double and half (without of) are generally used in combination with definite determiners (see Combinations of determiners below).[1] o Other phrases expressing precise quantity: a pair of. what (these can be followed by -ever for emphasis). not the noun in the phrase (a lot of people would take a plural verb. lots of. especially very. a bit of. often used in negative and interrogative contexts in place of the article-equivalent some (and sometimes also with singular count nouns). half of. several. o Relative determiners: which (quite formal. most. but their treatment as phrasal determiners is supported by the fact that the resulting noun phrase takes the number of the following noun. twice. sufficient. which animals were then. Note that unmodified much is quite rarely used in affirmative statements in colloquial English. Quantifiers. and their comparative and superlative forms more. little/few. a couple of. o The word any. a great deal of.). five litres of. Many such phrases can alternatively be analyzed as nouns followed by a preposition. These can be made more emphatic with the addition of own or very own. which quantify a noun: o Basic words indicating a large or small quantity: much/many. no. o The strong form of some. The basic forms can be modified with adverbs. a number of etc. o Phrases expressing similar meanings to the above: a lot of. this can also be used with singular count nouns (There's some man at the door). double.. o Note that many of these quantifiers can be modified by adverbs and adverbial phrases such as almost. three times. when the meaning is appropriate. etc. over. For words such as certain and other see below. used as an equivalent of the indefinite article with plural and non-count nouns (a partitive). the first is used with non-count nouns and the second with count nouns (although in colloquial English less and least are frequently also used with count nouns). etc. two. o Words and phrases expressing multiples or fractions: half. less than. It can also be used to express alternative (see below). enough. Where two forms are given. least/fewest. o Words and phrases expressing some unspecified or probably quite small amount: a few/a little (learners often confuse these with few/little). more than.   saw yesterday's). one. etc. even though lot is singular). o Words expressing maximum. as in He acquired two dogs and three cats. plenty of. o Interrogatives which. or indicate alternatives: . both. less/fewer. pronounced [sʌm]. tons of.. sufficient or zero quantity: all. as in Some people prefer dry wine. twice as much. Words that enumerate over a group or class. pronounced [s(ə)m] (see Weak and strong forms in English). too and so (and not can also be added). In some analyses these may not be treated as determiners. also whichever and whatever (which are of the type that form clauses with no antecedent: I'll take whatever money they've got). o Cardinal numbers: zero (quite rare as determiner). o The word some. Indefinite determiners: o The indefinite article a or an (the latter is used when followed by a vowel sound). etc.

as in the happiness that laughter engenders. " but not  o All we. different. What size shoes do you take?) o Words such as same." "Us girls must stick together. happiness is contagious (but the happiness when specific happiness is referred to. . " "We. . certain. . Jupiter. Examples: "I/we. . but are grammatically more likely to be classed simply as adjectives. .). . in phrases like we teachers. I noticed water on the floor (here it is also possible to use some cats. Note that the indefinite article in combination with other is written as the single word another. see also under indefinite determiners above). The main types of such cases are:    with plural or uncountable nouns used to refer to a concept or members of a class generally: cars are useful (but the cars when specific cars are being referred to). which serve a determining function. . you guys can be analysed as determiners. in that they generally require another determiner to complete the phrase (although they still come before other adjectives). . Zero determiner In some contexts a complete noun phrase can exist without any determiner (or with "zero determiner"). . such as this colour and what size (as in I like this colour furniture. what a disaster!) o Noun phrases used as determiners. with many proper names: Tom Smith. . . either. . only. every (note that every can be modified by adverbs such as almost and practically. Combinations of determiners Determiners can be used in certain combinations. . other. where the use of other pronouns is also permitted but the pronouns cannot be preceded by the (pre-) determiner "all"."  Other cases: o The words such and exclamative what (these are followed by an indefinite article when used with a singular noun.[2][3] Examples: "As all we teachers know .[2]. with plural or uncountable nouns used to refer to some unspecified amount of something: there are cats in the kitchen.. each. the undersigned. the undersigned. some water). as in such a treat. the undersigned.. neither Personal determiners: o The words you and we/us. Common examples are listed below: . whereas each generally cannot) o any (as in any dream will do. " (informal) These examples can be contrasted with a similar but different use of pronouns in an appositional construction. Birmingham. Italy.

Determiners and adjectives In traditional English grammar. three times my salary. As with other parts of speech. many an awkward moment). . For example. while determiners are sometimes restricted to one or the other (as with much and many). few. The words such and exclamative what can be followed by an indefinite article (as mentioned in the section above). every five grams of flour). none of these pictures. The word some can be followed by a cardinal number (some eight packets. more beautiful. whereas only certain combinations of determiners are allowable (see section above).       Determiners take the place (or can take the place) of articles in noun phrases. The word all can be followed by a cardinal number (all three things). etc. it is often possible to connect determiners of the same type with the conjunctions and and or: his and her children. Adjectives can modify singular or plural nouns. twice. An alternative construction with possessives is to place of and the pronoun form of the possessive after the noun: few enemies of mine. meaning "approximately eight"). two or three beans. determiners were not considered a separate part of speech – most of them would have been classed as adjectives. etc. For example. whereas adjectives do not. double. it is often possible to use a quantifier in pronoun form (often identical to the determiner form). most beautiful). To specify a quantity within a definite class (as opposed to a definite class of a given quantity). my very few faults). happiest. both the boys). a big green book is grammatical. as in he is happy. while adjectives do not. followed by of and a definite determiner. three times. but *every his book is not. but the big house. three-quarters the diameter. these three things. three of the mice.        A definite determiner can be followed by certain quantifiers (the many problems. Most adjectives can be used alone in predicative complement position. twice my age. Words and phrases expressing fractions and multiples. my house (not *the my house). The words all and both can be followed by a definite determiner (all the green apples. such as half. little). whereas determiners generally are not (except much/many. except where the same words are used as pronouns (the problem is this). few of my enemies. double the risk. However there are certain differences between determiners and ordinary adjectives (although the boundary is not always entirely clear). Determiners often have corresponding pronouns. The words each and every can be followed by a cardinal number or other expression of definite quantity (each two seats. determiners cannot (*he is the is not a grammatical sentence). The word many can be used with the indefinite article and a singular noun (many a night. can be followed by a definite determiner (half a minute. much information of John's. Adjectives can generally be used in combination without restriction. which can also be followed by a quantifier as above (all the many outstanding issues). For example. much of John's information. Most adjectives have comparative and superlative forms (happier.

These chocolates are for you. Those flowers.. I know how good a swimmer she is.. That and those indicate distance from the speaker. as. However there are certain exceptions when the determiner is the indefinite article a(n): that article normally comes after an adjective modified with so. (Uncountable noun) That boy is handsome.g.) He was as rude a man as I have ever met.. (Countable noun) This water is dirty.. (Uncountable noun) These is plural of this. This. over there. (alternatively: . That was too good an opportunity to miss. This and that are used before singular countable and uncountable nouns. e. too or how. Those is plural of that. the determiner generally comes first: the big book. are beautiful. (Countable noun) That rice is good. For example:     It was so terrible a disease that. these. This pen is expensive. those are the Demonstrative Determiners in English.. as in – This is a beautiful drawing. that. not *big the book.such a terrible disease that. as in – That girl is very smart.. This and these indicate nearness to the speaker. Demonstrative Determiners Demonstrative Determiners are used to indicate things or people in relationship to the speaker or writer in space or time.When determiners and adjectives (or other modifiers) occur in the same noun phrase. .

1. and 3. a lot. There are three types of quantifier. it is used in affirmations. negations and questions. For example There are several books / a number of books by J. some is the plural indefinite article. but less than a lot". Have you got any apples in your basket? Have you got any water in your bottle? We had some visitors last weekend. but more often. nor any water in my bottle. 2. Examples: I've got some apples in my basket and some water in my bottle. Neutral quantifiers: Some and any: several. We can get tickets for the concert. I haven't got any apples in my basket. much. In many contexts.Plummerman in our library. some implies a limited quantity. etc.A guide to using quantifiers in English . Some and any are both quantifiers and articles. a few. quantifiers of small quantity 1. the plural of "a" or "an".Z. and for this reason has the value of a quantifier. Definition Quantifiers are a type of determiner which denote imprecise quantity. many. They are not usually used in negative or interrogative structures. The most common examples: the most common quantifiers used in English are: some / any . only in affirmative statements. I've got enough money now. Some is used in affirmative statements. Have you got enough money for the tickets? . Several people / A number of people said that they'd seen the missing child. quantifiers of large quantity. several. it is replaced with any in negative and interrogative contexts. They differ from numbers or numerals which indicate precise quantity. neutral quantifiers. enough. a number of. but we didn't have any this weekend Have you got any rooms free for the night of September 30th ? Several and a number of imply "more than one. Enough Enough implies a sufficient quantity.

in affirmative statements. with enough as an intensifier following an adjective.. not much. but rather formal. Much whisky is of very good quality. in modern spoken English. numerous. plenty of. These quantifiers are normally only used in affirmative statements. not much are used with non count nouns (always in the singular) Few... . most English speakers would more naturally say: I have plenty of / a lot of / a large number of reasons for thinking . they are arranged in order of formality. but not probable in modern English. a little.. going from the most informal (lots of) to the most formal (numerous).NOTE: do not confuse enough as a quantifier preceeding a noun. Most people would say (and write): A lot of whisky / A good proportion of whisky / Plenty of whisky .. lots of. formal language in written documents. Informal language is more appropriate in dialogue. In the list above. not many. This sentence is technically acceptable. a few. a little. etc. Small quantity quantifiers: ► few. a small number of.. numerous . not many are used with count nouns in the plural.. 2. Remember this principle: don't use much or many in affirmative statements. 3. Large quantity quantifiers: much. a few. to which they give a negative colouring.. plenty of. many. IMPORTANT NOTE: Much and many are not often used. ► Little. ► Much and many: much is used with non count nouns (always in the singular). a large number of. These expressions all mean more or less exactly the same. a large number of. little. as in: That's good enough for me. a lot of. Examples: I have many reasons for thinking that this man is innocent is acceptable.. etc. many is used with count nouns in the plural. but they are very commonly used in interrogative and negative contexts. ► Lots of. (Click here for the difference between count nouns and non-count nouns).

enough numerous. plenty of. so I was quite happy. 4 Recapitulation: table of usage for common English quantifiers Affirmative Neutral Large quantity Small quantity some. Articles as Determinatives The first grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the article. so I was disappointed. too many few / a few. An apple is a healthy snack. With the article. . The indefinite articles in English are a and an. a few and a little have the meaning of "at least some. enough much. many. Hurry up. These expressions have a positive value. The definite article in English is the. too many Interrogative any. perhaps more than one might expect" . there's little time left ! We have a little time to spare. You'll never succeed! I've got a little money left. too many 5. A few of my friends were there. little or a little ? The difference between the two expressions in each phrase is purely one of meaning. not of usage. Without the article. the following italicized determiners function as determinatives:   The child devoured the banana. enough much. Few or a few. Little / a little Negative any. many. These expressions have a negative value to them. Examples: Few of my friends were there. let's go and have a drink. several. lots of. a lot of. so let's stop and have a cup of coffee. There's little point in trying to mend it. For example. and possibly less than one might hope for or expect". a number of. few and little (used respectively with count nouns and non-count nouns) have the meaning of "not much/ not many.Examples: Few people can speak more than three languages A few (of the) paintings in this gallery are really good.

My boyfriend will return this basketball to those teenaged boys. Demonstrative Determiners as Determinatives The second grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the demonstrative determiner. its. The interrogative determiners in English are what and which. Interrogative determiners: which and what We use "which" as a determiner to ask a question about a specific group of people or things: Which restaurant did you go to? Which countries in South America have you visited? When we are asking a general question we use "what" as a determiner: What films do you like? What university did you go to? Possessive Determiners as Determinatives The fourth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the possessive determiner. . Some grammars also use the term determiner to refer to articles. For example. his. The demonstrative determiners in English are this. The possessive determiners in English are my. the following italicized possessive determiners function as determinatives:   My house is your house. For example. your. and those. the following italicized interrogative determiners function as determinatives:    What book are you reading? Which coat belongs to which child? You want me to wash which blanket? Interrogative determiners are most often used in interrogative sentences. These very naughty children need to wash those dishes. her. The two birds built a nest. these. their. that. and whose. My reading the book pleases my teacher. the following italicized demonstrative determiners function as determinatives:    This puppy belongs to that family. For example. Interrogative Determiners as Determinatives The third grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the interrogative determiner. our.

None of the students have read any of the books. and subsequent. Some teenagers whine twice the amount as many toddlers. cardinal numerals express quantity:    one book two books twenty books In the same position. Quantifiers in English are words that provide information about quantity such as all. Numerals and Determiners Numerals are determiners when they appear before a noun. etc). some. Whose son destroyed whose car? The possessive determiner whose is an interrogative possessive determiner. Many quantifiers can also contain the preposition of as in all of and some of. Quantifiers as Determinatives The fifth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the quantifier. every. Those two children ate six cookies. Numerals as Determinatives The sixth grammatical form that can perform the grammatical function of determinative is the numeral. three. and second and fractions such as one-third and half are also quantifiers. For example. In this position. These are called general ordinals. double. each. second is related to two. ordinal numerals express sequence:    first impressions second chance third prize The subclass of ordinals includes a set of words which are not directly related to numbers (as first is related to one. These words also function as determiners:    next week last orders previous engagement . Numerals in English are the numbers used for counting such as one. the following italicized numerals function as determinatives:    One animal broke three flowerpots. two. and they include last. latter. previous. For example. Multipliers such as twice. the following italicized quantifiers function as determinatives:    Each child must eat all of his or her vegetables. The twelve Apostles followed one leader. and few. and four. next.

And like nouns. All her many accomplishments impressed the search committee. possessive determiners. Multiple Determiners In English grammar. as we've already seen. The thirteen books were each popular titles. The six grammatical forms that can function as determinatives in the English language are articles. more than one determiner can function as the determinative of a noun phrase or a verb phrase. quantifiers. . Both native English-speaking and ESL students must learn the six grammatical forms to construct sentences that contain determinatives in both spoken and written English. numerals are a subclass of nouns. The six forms are often grouped together into the larger category of determiner. and numerals. they can take determiners:   the two of us the first of many They can even have numerals as determiners before them:  five twos are ten In this example. demonstrative determiners. subsequent developments When they do not come before a noun. The following italicized determiners are examples of multiple determiners functions as the determinative of a single phrase:    All three of the children refused to eat any of their vegetables. twos is a plural noun and it has the determiner five before it. interrogative determiners.