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?

  • Emma felt a quiver of excitement, of terror almost, the feeling you might get from probing delicately at a stitched wound, wondering if the sutures would hold or the flesh would gape suddenly, allowing the innards to spill forth in an endless, bloody stream. [W2F-003 #85]
  • Harry found himself hurtling towards the checkpoint. [W2F-012 #130]
  • Well a anyway give us uh you know a call when uh when uh you know [S1A-095 #294]
  • And listening with us here in the studio is our diplomatic correspondent Paul Reynolds [S2B-012 #121]
  • And we walked up to the customs desk [S1A-021 #57]
  • And so it ’s a whole sort of compendium of bad taste [S2A-057 #47]
  • It was in eighteen ninety-one that after our first hundred years that uh Major General Sir Charles Wilson spoke here about the making of maps and their distribution  [S2B-045 #9]
  • They fulfilled the prime war aims of freeing Kuwait and eliminating the threat of Iraqi aggression against her neighbours and the rest of the world. [W2E-009 #72]
  • It ’s quite clear that the U N resolution demanding the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait is quite unambiguous quite unequivocal [S1B-035 #73]
  • The fossils are there two-words-mumbled [S1B-006 #30]

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