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?

  • Whether or not the General himself would have recognised all these characteristics as Gaullist the Gulf War has in any case largely put paid to them [S2B-039 #80]
  • There were two other things that our friend name Wilson was almost straight away [S1B-063 #14]
  • It ’s a free kick to the Soviet Union [S2A-014 #118]
  • The two of them are continuing to talk  [S2A-008 #159]
  • But they raise a further and more challenging question. [W2C-008 #92]
  • Further to our recent meeting, I wanted to confirm some of the points we made and to let you know the results of my discussions with re the proposal. [W1B-030 #127]
  • I then define what I meant by an attractor which is essentially a solution that has some finite probability of being achieved and a basin which is the set of conditions that would lead to that solution [S2A-033 #88]
  • That ’s why I felt that I was a character [S1A-064 #41]
  • Did he Have you spoken to him about his Robin Day experience [S1B-042 #146]
  • At its most simple, a radar image is built up by the modulation of the brightness along a succession of lines on a cathode-ray tube or on film by the energy-time history of successive pulses (Fig. 2.23 (c)). [W2A-037 #14]

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