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In the English language, determiners are used to clarify and emphasize nouns.

Determiners have many types, including articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives. In this lesson, we will cover the definition, types, and uses of determiners.

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What are Determiners?

Most native English speakers couldn’t identify a determiner, even if it was staring them right in the face. The funny thing is that most English speakers use determiners every day in speech and writing. In English, determiners are important to proper sentence structure and comprehension. Determiners are important because they work to clarify nouns and make a sentence as precise and focused as possible. Many parts of speech, such as articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives, can act as a determiner.

In this lesson, we will go over the definition of a determiner, discuss the types of determiners, and explore the uses of determiners.Determiners are words that come before a noun and serve to modify the noun. Determiners modify nouns by providing context and specificity to the noun.

Let’s take a look at the following sentence and identify the modifier:

  • That cat is very fat.

The word ‘that’ is the determiner. The determiner moves to specify exactly which cat the speaker is referring to in order to clarify and contextualize the information.Many different parts of speech can operate as determiners. Like stated previously, articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives are the most popular types of words that can be determiners.

Types of Determiners

Let’s take a few moments to look at some different types of determiners.


Articles are the most popular types of determiners. The main articles are ‘the,’ ‘a,’ and ‘an.’ ‘The’ is a definite article, which means it refers to a specific person, place, or thing. Using the word ‘the’ as a determiner increases the exactness of the subject in a sentence.

On the other hand, ‘a’ and ‘an’ are indefinite articles, which means that the noun they precede isn’t an exact person, place or, thing; rather, the article creates a more generalized noun. Take a look at the following examples:

  • The cat eats the mouse’s cheese.
  • A cat ate the mouse’s cheese.

  • An apple fell from the tree.
  • The apple fell from the tree.


Possessive words such as ‘ours,’ ‘yours,’ ‘mine,’ ‘theirs,’ ‘hers,’ and ‘his’ can be used as determiners.

A possessive determiner provides context in a sentence because it informs the reader what belongs to the subject. Here are a few examples:

  • Her car is over there.
  • Is your coffee on the counter?


Demonstratives serve as determiners that locate a noun in a specific location. Words such as ‘that,’ ‘this,’ ‘there,’ ‘these,’ and ‘those’ can work as determiners, since demonstratives basically identify an object based on its location.

Let’s read a few examples:

  • Did you want to eat that pizza?
  • That cat isn’t very friendly.
  • Are those your shoes?
  • Do these pictures go in the photo album?
  • I didn’t want this flavor.


A quantifier tells the reader how much of something there is using words like ‘all,’ ‘many,’ and ‘few’ (among others). Look at these examples that use quantifiers:

  • There were a few cats living at the house.
  • Many children like vanilla ice cream.
  • All of the students wanted vegetarian pizza.

Main Uses of a Determiner

While the above information shows you how a determiner is used, let’s quickly explore the uses of a determiner to fully understand its purpose.

As we saw, a determiner is used to clarify a noun: most importantly, to make something more specific.A determiner can also work to point out the differences between nouns. Two words are used when applying a determiner to point out a difference or differences: ‘other’ and ‘another.’The word ‘other’ can be used with plural and singular terms, while ‘another’ can only be used with singular nouns. Let’s look at how these words can be used as determiners:

  • No, I said I wanted the other kind of pizza.
  • Is there another flavor of ice cream?

Lesson Summary

Let’s take a few moments to review what we’ve learned about determiners.

Determiners are incredibly important in the English language. This is because determiners provide context and specificity to nouns, since they are words that come before a noun and serve to modify the noun.Quantifiers, articles, demonstratives, and possessives are four main types of determiners used in English. Each type helps to specify a noun, which provides clarity and precision to the sentence. For example, a definite article refers to a specific person, place or thing, while an indefinite article refers to a generalized noun.

Possessive determiners provide context in a sentence because they inform the reader what belongs to the subject, while demonstratives basically identify an object based on its location. Finally, quantifiers tell the reader how much of something there is.

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