What is a Determiner? Types of Determiners

In English grammar, we have several parts that help us form sentences, convey a complete thought, and add more information. While most of them belong to the parts of speech such as nouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc., there are other key units in grammar that need attention. They are the determiners.

In this post, we will discuss what exactly the determiners are and why we need them. But in a very general sense, determiners can be introduced as the words that we use before a noun phrase in a sentence. They introduce a noun phrase and tell us what one is referring to. They can also tell the reader how much or how many things one is referring to.

List of Homophones | Homophones Exa...
List of Homophones | Homophones Examples

However, the main objective of a determiner is to tell whether a noun is specific or general. So let us get into a detailed discussion to make sense of the above sentences.

What are determiners?

By definition, determiners are words that precede a noun phrase that it refers to. Their main objective is to give information about the noun that follows it and determine what the noun is referring to. Sometimes, determiners can also clarify how much or how many things the speaker is referring to.

In short, determiners are words that come before a noun phrase and provide information about it. Hence, they are also referred to as clarifying words.

Determiners are words like a, the, your, my, its, that, this, an, any, etc. These words clearly identify and indicate which, whose, or how many things one is talking about.

Let us look at some examples.

  • My cat is playing in the garden.
  • Can you pass me the book?
  • I will watch a movie today.
  • That puppy is so cute!

As we can see, the determiners appear before a noun and provide information about them. However, determiners can also come before an adjective describing a noun. That is also grammatically correct.

Categories of determiners

So, we have learned that determiners try to introduce a noun. But essentially, these words explain whether the noun is specific or general. And in accordance with that function, they are categorized as specific determiners and general determiners.

Specific determiners are those that specify a noun, one is referring to. This means they tell us the definite noun, and the reader knows exactly what one is referring to. They use words like this, that, my, you, her, etc.

General determiners, on the other hand, are words that refer to a noun in a general way. This means the nouns are unspecified, and the reader is unknown to which or what noun one is referring to. They use words like a, an, any, etc.

For example:

  • Your cat is running away. (specific determiner)
  • This is easy. Any student can solve it. (general determiner)

Classifications of determiners

Finally, after learning determiners and their two main categories, it is necessary to know the type of words determiners use.

In the English language, there are four types of determiner words. They are

Articlesdefinite articlethe, indefinite articlesa, an

Demonstrative determiner this, that, these, those

They specify a noun by giving its literal and figurative distance.

Possessive determiner my, your, her, our, its, their, his

They specify a noun by showing the noun’s ownership.

Quantifier- many, much, more, most, some

They determine the quantity of a noun one is referring to.

These are the main classifications of determiners. Commonly, definite articles, demonstrative, and possessive determiners are used as specific determiners and indefinite articles as general determiners.

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