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 (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?

  • If you feel you ’re in danger, remember that BR would rather your train were delayed than that you became the victim of a crime. [W2D-009 #152]
  • Uhm uh the reason I ’m qualifying myself is that sometimes if I ’m talking about my father I tend to make him seem a bit like an ogre in some ways uh  [S1A-076 #46]
  • I ’m sure that lot will inspire me when the alarm goes off! [W1B-010 #110]
  • But you you don’t you don’t have to have to book up the same the following night [S1A-025 #246]
  • but being reviewed for a work of fiction  [S1B-044 #89]
  • what we do is have a machinery which is good democratic machinery to ensure that if there is an election uh then the person who is elected uhm does command the support of the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party [S2B-006 #127]
  • The device is powered by a rechargeable battery. [W2B-039 #57]
  • To boost the signal [S1A-088 #139]
  • The universities in these days when profit is as important as prophecy have not been left out of the race to exploit this new market  [S2B-046 #7]
  • I think the main things that I saw as as absent from disa from work with with disabled people was [S1A-001 #2]

Full Preview

This is a full preview of this page. You can view a couple of pages a day like this without registering. But if you wish to use it in your classroom, please register your details on Englicious (for free) and then log in!

Englicious (C) Survey of English Usage, UCL, 2012-17 | Supported by the AHRC and EPSRC. | Cookies