What are determiners and when are they used?

What are determiners and when are they used?

When you use a noun in a phrase or a sentence, it is often necessary to use another word before it to make the reference more specific. These words are called determiners but they are not adjectives.

  • This is his t-shirt. 
  • There’s a photocopier in the office.  
  • These computers are for the sales team. 
  • I have some friends who you should meet. 


However, when you talk about something in a general way, you should leave out the determiner.


  • I don’t like snakes.
  • He sells t-shirts.
  • Different types of determiners


There are two main groups of determiners. The first group of determiners help us to identify things, whether they are known or unknown, and which ones we are talking about.

Note: these types of determiners can not be used together. So, we can say ‘The blue shirt’ but not ‘The my blue shirt.’

  1. the indefinite article a or an.
  2. the definite article the.
  3. demonstratives this, that, these, those.
  4. possessives my, your, his, her, its, our, their.


The other group of determiners tell us how much or how many we are talking about.


  1. quantifiers

some, any, enough, no, all, both, half, double, several, much, many, more, most, few, fewer, fewest, a few, little (meaning not much), less, least, a little. 


  1. distributives each, every, either, neither


These determiners can be used before a noun in a phrase. However, if the noun has another type of determiner in front of it, we have to use ‘of’ e.g. ‘Some of the boys in my class.’

Other types of determiners include numbers such as one, two, three, first, second, third, and exclamatives like what and such.

If you have any questions about using any of these words, please let us know.

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