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Determiners and quantifiers

General and specific determiners


Determiners are words which come at the beginning of the noun phrase.
They tell us whether the noun phrase is specific or general.
Determiners are either specific or general

Specific determiners:
The specific determiners are:

the definite article: the


possessives: my, your, his, her, its; our, their, whose
demonstratives: this, that, these, those
interrogatives: which
We use a specific determiner when we believe the listener/reader knows exactly what we are referring
to:
Can you pass me the salt please?
Look at those lovely flowers.
Thank you very much for your letter.
Whose coat is this?

General determiners:
The general determiners are:

a; an; any; another; other; what


When we are talking about things in general and the listener/reader does not know exactly what we are
referring to, we can use a uncount noun or a plural noun with no determiner:
Milk is very good for you. (= uncount noun)
Health and education are very important. (= 2 uncount nouns)
Girls normally do better in school than boys. (= plural nouns with no determiner)
or you can use a singular noun with the indefinite article a or an:

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A woman was lifted to safety by a helicopter.


A man climbing nearby saw the accident.
We use the general determiner any with a singular noun or an uncount noun when we are talking
about all of those people or things:
Its very easy. Any child can do it. (= All children can do it)
With a full licence you are allowed to drive any car.
I like beef, lamb, pork - any meat.
We use the general determiner another to talk about an additional person or thing:
Would you like another glass of wine?
The plural form of another is other:
I spoke to John, Helen and a few other friends.

Quantifiers
We use quantifiers when we want to give someone information about the number of something: how
much or how many.

Interrogative determiners: which and what


We use "which" as a determiner to ask a question about a specific group of people or things:
Which restaurant did you go to?
Which countries in South America have you visited?
When we are asking a general question we use "what" as a determiner:
What films do you like?
What university did you go to?

Indefinite article: a and an


1. We use the indefinite article, a/an, with count nouns when the hearer/reader does not know exactly
which one we are referring to:

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Police are searching for a 14 year-old girl.


2. We also use it to show the person or thing is one of a group:
She is a pupil at London Road School.

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since
Friday.
Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall with
short blonde hair.
She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue
jeans and blue shoes.
Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.

3. We do not use an indefinite article with plural nouns and uncount nouns:
She was wearing blue shoes. (= plural noun)
She has short blonde hair. (= uncount noun)

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since Friday.
Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall
with short blonde hair.
She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue
jeans and blue shoes.
Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.

4. We use a/an to say what someone is or what job they do:


My brother is a doctor.
George is a student.
5. We use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind:
A man needs friends. (= All men need friends)
A dog likes to eat meat. (= All dogs like to eat meat)

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Definite article: the


The definite article the is the most frequent word in English.
We use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe the hearer/reader knows exactly what we
are referring to.
because there is only one:
The Pope is visiting Russia.
The moon is very bright tonight.
The Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979.
This is why we use the definite article with a superlative adjective:
He is the tallest boy in the class.
It is the oldest building in the town.
because there is only one in that place or in those surroundings:

We live in a small village next to the


church.

(the church in our


village)

Dad, can I borrow the car?

(the car that belongs to


our family)

When we stayed at my
grandmothers house we went to the
beach every day.

(the beach near my


grandmothers house)

Look at the boy in the blue shirt over


there.

(the boy I am pointing


at)

because we have already mentioned it:


A woman who fell 10 metres from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The woman fell
while climbing.
The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men
walking on the peakwere killed in a fall.
We also use the definite article:
to say something about all the things referred to by a noun:
The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)
The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)
The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)
We use the definite article in this way to talk about musical instruments:
Joe plays the piano really well.(= George can play any piano)
She is learning the guitar.(= She is learning to play any guitar)
to refer to a system or service:
How long does it take on the train.
I heard it on the radio.
You should tell the police.
With adjectives like rich, poor, elderly, unemployed to talk about groups of people:

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Life can be very hard for the poor.


I think the rich should pay more taxes.
She works for a group to help the disabled.
The definite article with names:
We do not normally use the definite article with names:
William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.
Paris is the capital of France.
Iran is in Asia.
But we do use the definite article with:
countries whose names include words like kingdom, states or republic:
the United Kingdom; the kingdom of Nepal; the United States; the Peoples Republic of China.
countries which have plural nouns as their names:
the Netherlands; the Philippines
geographical features, such as mountain ranges, groups of islands, rivers, seas, oceans and canals:
the Himalayas; the Canaries; the Atlantic; the Atlantic Ocean; the Amazon; the Panama Canal.
newspapers:
The Times; The Washington Post
well known buildings or works of art:
the Empire State Building; the Taj Mahal; the Mona Lisa; the Sunflowers
organisations:
the United Nations; the Seamens Union
hotels, pubs and restaurants*:
the Ritz; the Ritz Hotel; the Kings Head; the Dj Vu
*Note: We do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the
owner, e.g.,Browns; Browns Hotel; Morels; Morels Restaurant, etc.
families:
the Obamas; the Jacksons

Quantifiers
We use quantifiers when we want to give someone information about the number of something: how
much or how many.
Sometimes we use a quantifier in the place of a determiner:
Most children start school at the age of five.
We ate some bread and butter.
We saw lots of birds.
We use these quantifiers with both count and uncount nouns:

all

any

enough

less

a lot of

more

most

no

none of

some

lots of

and some more colloquial forms:

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plenty of

heaps of

a load of

loads of

tons of

etc.

Some quantifiers can be used only with count nouns:

both

each

either

(a) few

fewer

neither

several

and some more colloquial forms:

a couple of

hundreds of

etc.

thousands of

Some quantifiers can be used only with uncount nouns:

a little

(not) much

a bit of

And, particularly with abstract nouns such as time, money, trouble, etc:, we often use:

a great deal of

a good deal of

Members of groups
You can put a noun after a quantifier when you are talking about members of a group in general
Few snakes are dangerous.
Both brothers work with their father.
I never have enough money.
but if you are talking about a specific group of people or things, use of the as well
Few of the snakes are dangerous.
All of the children live at home.
He has spent all of his money.
Note that, if we are talking about two people or things we use the quantifiers both, either and neither:

One supermarket

Two supermarkets*

More than two


supermarkets

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One supermarket

The supermarket was


closed
The supermarket
wasn't open
I dont think the
supermarket was
open.

Two supermarkets*

More than two


supermarkets

Both the supermarkets


were closed.

All the supermarkets were


closed

Neither of the
supermarkets was open.

None of the supermarkets


were open

I dont think either of the


supermarkets was open.

I don't think any of the


supermarkets were open

*Nouns with either and neither have a singular verb.


Singular quantifiers:
We use every or each with a singular noun to mean all:

There was a party in every


street.

There were parties in all the


streets.

Every shop was decorated


with flowers.

All the shops were decorated


with flowers.

Each child was given a prize.

All the children were given a


prize.

There was a prize in each


competition.

There were prizes in all the


competitions.

We often use every to talk about times like days, weeks and years:
When we were children we had holidays at our grandmothers every year.
When we stayed at my grandmothers house we went to the beach every day.
We visit our daughter every Christmas.
BUT: We do not use a determiner with every and each. We do not say:
The every shop was decorated with flowers.
The each child was given a prize.

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