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 (these are also called the definite aticle and indefinite article).

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?

  • Now in the long answer that he gave half way down that page he said towards the end of that answer when my father found out about this lot he gave me a good hiding  [S1B-063 #75]
  • It is true that the Franks did influence Brittany, but the consequent changes in Breton government, and the exercise of authority at either imperial or principes level had little effect on the organisation of local communities and their self-regulation of their affairs. [W1A-003 #81]
  • and we want the wall repaired  [S1B-069 #69]
  • It was as if the radicalism of 1980-81 had never happened. [W2C-008 #74]
  • After uhm the conversion of Constantine it was the the principal church plan uhm [S2A-060 #51]
  • In order to reach orbit a V-2 would have to be filled with propellant up to as much as 98 per cent of its take-off weight, leaving only 2 per cent for everything else. [W2B-035 #43]
  • If that principle is right for the new council tax it must be right for the poll tax [S1B-034 #121]
  • Again, this could be a perfectly valid reaction to past experiences, which could none the less seem strange to the outside world. [W2B-017 #78]
  • That ’s the news summary [S2B-012 #19]
  • Anyway on this occasion the pastry I thought was going to be absolutely superb  [S1A-057 #315]

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