General Determiners – Examples

Apart from nouns, verbs, and adverbs, there are several other units in grammar that are equally important to produce a complete sentence with the right amount of detail. One such unit is called the determiners.

In a general sense, determiners are words that come before noun phrases to modify them. Basically, their job is to denote what one is referring to or how many. They can tell whether a noun is specific or general. In this post, we will focus on the latter part, the general determiners.

General determiners, as the name suggests, are words that denote a noun in a general sense. They are different from specific determiners and have different word choices and functions that we will study down below.

What are general determiners?

By definition, general determiners are words that come before a noun phrase to refer to it in a general way.

In simple words, general determiners are those words that talk about things in a general and unspecific manner. This means they come before a noun phrase in a sentence to denote it in an overall manner. They cannot refer to an exact or specific thing.

General determiners are words like a, an, any, other, what, etc. These words refer to anyone or anything concerning the noun. So, when we use general determiners in a sentence before a noun, the reader does not know what exactly we are referring to.

Let us understand with some examples.

  • I saw a man standing there.
  • Any dancer can do that step.
  • You can wear any of the dresses you like.
  • Can I get a glass of water?
  • He is writing an article.
  • Sarah and a few others were climbing the trees.
  • It is an easy task. Any player can do it.

Here, we see the bold words refer to something in general. They can be anything or anyone from all the choices available. Hence, they are named as general determiners.

Difference between general determiners and specific determiners

In order to understand general determiners thoroughly, it is necessary to know what the specific determiners perform.

Specific determiners are words like the, these, that, your, my, etc. They are words that refer to a noun in a specific way. They tell exactly what, whose, or which noun it is. But general determiners don’t. General determiners are words like a, an, any, etc. They are the words that denote a noun in an overall manner.

This function is also the key to identifying a general determiner. This means if a word before a noun phrase refers to it as the exact thing, it will never be a general determiner.

Let us understand with an example.

I saw your cat running.

This is a specific determiner. (Here the cat is specified.)

I saw a cat running.

This is a general determiner. (It can be any cat.)

So, we have general determiners that refer to a noun as one among the wide group of things present. They do not tell which specific noun one is referring to.

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