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Determiners


What are determiners?

A determiner is used to modify a noun. It indicates reference to something specific or something of a particular type. This function is usually performed by articles, demonstratives, possessive determiners, or quantifiers.

Determiners vs pronouns

Determiners are followed by a noun.

  • The man
  • This book
  • Some people

Subject pronouns ( I , you , he , etc.) and possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, etc.) cannot be determiners because they can never be followed by a noun.

Types of determiners

Articles

The definite and indefinite articles are all determiners.

  • Definite article - the
  • Indefinite article - a or an (a is used before a consonant sound; an is used before a vowel sound.)

Examples:

Close the door, please.
I've got a friend in Canada.

Demonstratives

There are four demonstrative determiners in English and they are: this, that, these and those

Note that demonstrative determiners can also be used as demonstrative pronouns. When they are used as determiners they are followed by the nouns they modify. Compare:

This is my camera. (Demonstrative used as a pronoun, subject of the verb is)
This camera is mine. (Demonstrative used as a determiner modifying the noun camera.)

Possessives

Possessive adjectives - my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their - modify the noun following it in order to show possession.

Possessive determiners are different from possessive pronouns - mine, his, hers, yours, ours, their.

  • Possessive pronouns can stand alone and are not followed by nouns.
  • Possessive determiners, on the other hand, are followed by nouns.

Compare:

This is my house. (my is a possessive determiner. It is followed by the noun house which it modifies)
Is that car yours? (yours is a possessive pronoun. It is not followed by a noun.)

Quantifiers

Quantifiers are followed by nouns which they modify. Examples of quantifiers include:

some, any, few, little, more, much, many, each, every, both, all, enough, half, little, whole, less etc.

Quantifiers are commonly used before either countable or uncountable nouns.

He knows more people than his wife.
Little knowledge is a dangerous thing .

Exercise on determiners

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