Determiners

Determiners form a class of words that occur in the left-most position inside noun phrases. They thus precede nouns, as well as any adjectives that may be present.

The most common determiners are the and a/an.

Here are some more determiners:

  • any taxi
  • that question
  • those apples
  • this paper
  • some apple
  • whatever taxi
  • whichever taxi

As these examples show, determiners can have various kinds of 'specifying' functions. For example, they can help us to identify which person or thing the noun refers to. So, if in a conversation with you I talk about that man you will know who I am talking about. In the following examples the determiners specify a quantity:

  • all examples
  • both parents
  • many people
  • each person
  • every night
  • several computers
  • few excuses
  • enough water
  • no escape

Be aware that the following items belong to the class of pronouns when they occur on their own (e.g. I like this very much), but when they occur before nouns (e.g. this book) they belong to both the determiner and pronoun classes:

  • this/that
  • these/those

Possessive my, your, his/her, our, and their occur before nouns, and are classed as determiners. When they occur on their own as mine, yours, his/hers, ours and theirs (e.g. That phone is mine) we take them to be pronouns.

Determiners can sometimes be modified themselves, usually by a preceding modifier, examples being [almost every] night and [very many] people.

Here are some more words acting as determiners. These examples are drawn directly from the ICE-GB corpus. Refreshing your screen will produce a new list of examples. Which noun does each determiner point at, and what does each determiner tell us about the noun?

  • You can’t have a prosthesis that ’s worth its weight of gold worth its weight at all with a deformed breast but with the breast removed you can have a beautiful prosthesis  [S1B-010 #156]
  • Yes I uh I think Marks and Spencer ’s lets the side down though doesn’t it rather because Marks and Spencer ’s ordinary brie is uhm very uhm tedious and and uhm not properly ripened and uh  [S1A-009 #341]
  • Does it actually print the uhm  [S1A-077 #309]
  • On CD the presence of the close-miked instruments brings edginess with a touch of shrillness on the strings, though the background ambience is voluptuous enough. [W2B-008 #132]
  • Soon after his appointment Thomas Colby was required to concentrate the effort of the Ordnance Survey on cadastral mapping of Ireland  [S2B-045 #86]
  • Well that may be their view of it [S2B-013 #85]
  • If you like that ’s a measure of uh how much people are paid and and hence how much they earn in terms of the value that they have in the provision of goods and services [S2A-037 #23]
  • As it ’s very important for the long term trend of public expenditure to decline as a percentage of national income would my right honourable friend agree that the primary role of the rate of interest must now be to keep uh sterling within the limits of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and as a result fiscal policy has become more important than ever before [S1B-052 #31]
  • Temperature is one important factor that must be taken into consideration when deciding where the computer will be placed. [W2B-033 #6]
  • On the other hand, Eijkman (1924) stated that his BMR was the same in Batavia (Dutch East Indies) as in Holland. [W2A-024 #10]

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