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Determiners


3 Determiners

 

Nouns are often preceded by the words the, a, or an. These words are called DETERMINERS. They indicate the kind of reference which the noun has. The determiner the is known as the DEFINITE ARTICLE. It is used before both singular and plural nouns: 
 
 

Singular

Plural

the taxi

the taxis

the paper

the papers

the apple

the apples

 

 

The determiner a (or an, when the following noun begins with a vowel) is the INDEFINITE ARTICLE. It is used when the noun is singular: 
 

a taxi 
a paper 
an apple

The articles the and a/an are the most common determiners, but there are many others: 
 

any taxi 
that question 
those apples 
this paper 
some apple 
whatever taxi 
whichever taxi

Many determiners express quantity: 
 

all examples 
both parents 
many people 
each person 
every night 
several computers 
few excuses 
enough water 
no escape

Perhaps the most common way to express quantity is to use a numeral. We look at numerals as determiners in the next section. 

3.1 Numerals and Determiners

Numerals are determiners when they appear before a noun. In this position, cardinal numerals express quantity: 
 

one book 
two books 
twenty books

In the same position, ordinal numerals express sequence: 
 

first impressions 
second chance 
third prize

The subclass of ordinals includes a set of words which are not directly related to numbers (as first is related to one, second is related to two, etc). These are called general ordinals, and they include last, latter, next, previous, and subsequent. These words also function as determiners: 
 

next week 
last orders 
previous engagement 
subsequent developments

 When they do not come before a noun, as we've already seen, numerals are a subclass of nouns. And like nouns, they can take determiners: 
 

the two of us 
the first of many

They can even have numerals as determiners before them: 
 

five twos are ten

In this example, twos is a plural noun and it has the determiner five before it.

3.2 Pronouns and Determiners

There is considerable overlap between the determiner class and the subclass of pronouns. Many words can be both: 

 

 

Pronoun

Determiner

This is a very boring book

This book is very boring

That's an excellent film

That film is excellent

 

  

As this table shows, determiners always come before a noun, but pronouns are more independent than this. They function in much the same way as nouns, and they can be replaced by nouns in the sentences above: 

 

 

This is a very boring book

~Ivanhoe is a very boring book

That's an excellent film

~Witness is an excellent film

 

  

On the other hand, when these words are determiners, they cannot be replaced by nouns: 

 

 

This book is very boring

~*Ivanhoe book is very boring

That film is excellent

~*Witness film is excellent

 

  

The personal pronouns (I, you, he, etc) cannot be determiners. This is also true of the possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his/hers, ours, and theirs). However, these pronouns do have corresponding forms which are determiners: 

 

 

Possessive Pronoun

Determiner

The white car is mine

My car is white

Yours is the blue coat

Your coat is blue

The car in the garage is his/hers 

His/her car is in the garage

David's house is big, but ours is bigger

Our house is bigger than David's

Theirs is the house on the left

Their house is on the left

 

  

The definite and the indefinite articles can never be pronouns. They are always determiners.


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