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

What about possessive my, your, his/her, our, and their when they occur before nouns, as in my book, her bicycle?

The National Curriculum Glossary has examples like her book in the entries for ‘possessive’, ‘pronoun' and ‘determiner’, which seems to suggest that they belong to both classes, i.e. deteminer and pronoun. In our grammar videos (, especially videos 2 and 3, we hedge our bets and say that her belongs to both classes, i.e. it’s both a determiner and a pronoun, because this is what then NC seems to be claiming. (See also 'Advanced'.) However, in the GPS tests for KS1 and KS2 it is always assumed that these words are determiners, not pronouns, despite what it says in the glossary.

The words mine, yours, his/hers, ours and theirs (e.g.That phone is mine) occur on their own and 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?

  • We ’re each expert at giving and recognising those myriad signals of speech and dress and behaviour which denote our social position [S2B-036 #11]
  • Whichever of these explanations is responsible for the Frankenstein ’s - monster effect in any particular case, the interest of an AI program as such lies in the non-algorithmic complexity of the interaction of components that are not necessarily complex in themselves. [W2A-036 #80]
  • Market men said that the irony is that shares prices are now significantly below pre-Kuwait invasion levels and yet the majors have enjoyed inflated cash flow since August and the crude price is still about $1 higher than it was at the time of the initial Iraqi strike. [W2C-012 #53]
  • At the town of Cubal, close to Ganda, a nutritional centre run by the Catholic church handles the worst cases. [W2C-002 #92]
  • Just an aside there [S1A-004 #17]
  • and you may link it with something that the chorus has been covering when it was singing one of its lyrics [S1B-019 #5]
  • But can he, and those who would support him find a way of extricating themselves from under the lady ’s shawl? [W2E-003 #55]
  • That is not to imply criticism of our schools overburdened as they already are with new obligations without commensurate resources  [S2A-039 #49]
  • However, light is of such crucial importance for plant growth and development that there are, in fact, several additional means by which it can influence the orientation of plant organs. [W2A-025 #18]
  • The recession of a decade ago largely passed cities like Cambridge by  [S2B-002 #42]


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