The idea of determiners.
What are determiners?
- They identify, define or reference the noun and answer (or ask) the question - which, what or whose?
- articles - a, an, the, θ article
- demonstratives - this, that, these, those
- possessives - my, his, your + Juliet's, the manager's etc
- wh-determiners - which, what, whose, whichever, whatever, whatsoever
- ordinal numbers - first, second, third etc
- general ordinals - next, last, previous etc
- They quantify the noun and answer the question - how many or how much?
- quantifiers - all, some, many, a lot of, enough, other etc
- cardinal numbers - one, two, three etc
- fractions - half, two-thirds, three-quarters etc
- multipliers - once, twice, double, three-times etc
Form and function 1
Determiners and adjectives
- This is a picture of my beautiful new car.
- There's a little sugar left. (determiner)
- Can you pass me that little book over there. (adjective)
Determiners and pronouns
Exercise 1 - identify the determiners in these sentences.
|1||Look at that huge dog over there.|
|2||That is my cousin Jane sitting on the sofa.|
|3||Do you know when the next bus is due?|
|4||Which book would you recommend? - This one is quite good.|
|5||Look at this. It's just like the last one we saw.|
|6||All of them look the same to me.|
|7||I haven't got enough time to do all my homework.|
|8||Is there any more pudding. I've finished all mine.|
|9||There are some eggs in that cupboard.|
|10||We go to the market every other day.|
Numbers etc can also be determiners
They can be quantifiers
- I've got ten biscuits
- This one is double the price of that one; it's twice the cost.
- So it's half the price of that one. That's half what I paid.
- Three quarters of a kilo. Five eighths of a mile.
Or they can identify a noun as part of a sequence
- This will be his tenth birthday.
- Is that your first coffee today?
- He's already looking forward to his next birthday.
- She's not going to make the same mistake as the previous time.
- Peter came first in the race.
- And Paul came last.
Exercise 2 - tick the boxes where the underlined numbers are being used as determiners
|1.||Here's two pounds for Susan's present.|
|2.||That's the third time today.|
|3.||We've already come three quarters of the way.|
|4.||A litre of water is a pint and three quarters.|
|5.||Who's next, please?|
|6.||Half of that money is mine.|
|7.||Where was it the last time you saw it?|
|8.||Who came first in the 100 metres?|
|9.||That's double what I paid.|
|10.||The prime minister lives at Number Ten Downing Street.|
|11.||Twice as good and half the price.|
|12.||She gets twice my salary.|
Grouping different categories of determiners
- Definite (or Specific), Indefinite (or General) determiners, and Quantifiers - favoured by Wikipedia and Learn English at the British Council
- Group A and Group B determiners - the method I'm more used to.
- Predeterminers, Central determiners and Postdeterminers - the one mentioned in Intelligent Business Advanced. This system is, I think, mainly used by linguists, and is mainly concerned with what order determiners come in when we use more than one.
Group A and Group B determiners
Group A determiners
Group B determiners
- numbers, fractions, ordinals and multipliers
Exercise 3 - decide which group the underlined determiners belong to
|Group A||Group B|
|1.||Look at that cat over there!|
|2.||I've got more money than you.|
|3.||She comes here every day.|
|4.||It's her home from home.|
|5.||All roads lead to Rome.|
|6.||May all your dreams come true.|
|7.||This is the first day of the rest of your life.|
|8.||One of these days, you'll understand.|
|9.||It's just one of life's many little mysteries.|
|10.||Each bedroom has its own en-suite bathroom.|
|11.||We're here for Mary's birthday party.|
|12.||I've no idea what missing chocolates you're talking about.|
Putting Group A and Group B determiners together
Combining two Group A determiners
- we can say: the car, my car, this car
- but NOT the my car this the car or my this car
- A friend of mine told me.
- Tell me about this idea of yours.
- That joke of David's was really funny.
Combining two Group B determiners
- I go shopping every few days
- Is there any more milk
- She's written all four reports.
Group B + of + Group A determiner
- Each boy has his own room.
- Each of the boys has his own room.
- Is there any coffee left?
- Is there any of that coffee left?
Group A + Group B determiners
- Dicken's many novels
- a few minutes
- it's the other way
Group B determiners before pronouns
- Most of us are going to the pub later.
- Neither of them smoke.
- Which of you is Mary?
Predeterminers, central determiners and postdeterminers
Exercise 4 - these sentences all contain two determiners. Put the words into the correct order.
Exercise 5 - these sentences all contain two determiners. Put the words into the correct order.
- Quantifiers - all, both, half
- Other fractions - a quarter, two-thirds etc
- Multipliers - double, twice, four times etc
- Intensifiers - such, what, rather, quite - these are usually followed by a(n)
- Cardinal numbers - one, two, three hundred and thirty five etc
- Ordinal numbers - first, second, tenth etc
- General ordinals - last, next, previous, subsequent etc
- Quantifiers(a) few, (a) little, least, many, much, most, other etc
|Here's that ten pounds I owe you.||It costs ten pounds|
|And the first prize goes to ...||He won first prize|
|During the next week or so||She's leaving next week|
|We've got a little time left||There's really very little time|
Group A (see above)
Group B (see above)
- Interrogatives and relatives
- Negative determiners - no, neither
- Quantifiers - some, any, each, every, either, another, enough
Exercise 6 - these sentences all contain three determiners. Put them into the correct order.
The two systems compared
a, an, the, θ article
this, that, these, those
my, his, your
Sandra's, the dog's etc
all, both, half
which, what, whose
one, two, three etc
three quarters, five eighths etc
some, any, no
first, second, third
next, last, previous etc
once, twice, three times etc
|each, every, either, neither||quantifiers|
many, much, more, most
few, fewer, fewest
little, less, least, several
what, such, rather, quite
Linking determiners with of
Postdeterminer + of + central determiner
- He invited his many friends to the wedding. (all of them)
- Many of his friends were invited to the wedding. (but not all of them)
- He finished the last bottle of wine.
- He finished the last of his wine.
- None of his friends were invited to the wedding.
- Many of his friends were invited to the wedding.
- None of the money went to charity
- Much of the money went to charity
Central determiner + of + Central determiner:
|Group B||Group B + of + Group A|
|some oranges||some of those oranges|
|most students||most of my students|
|which coffee?||which of these coffees is mine?|
|Note how each and neither (and every and either) are used|
|each child (sg)||each of the children (pl)|
|neither brother (sg)||neither of her brothers (pl)|
|Note what happens with no and every|
|no students||none of my students|
|every book||every one of these books|
Wh-determiners - interrogatives and relatives
Exercise 7a - choose the appropriate wh-determiner to fit the gap.
|1.||a shame she can't come.|
|What - Which - Whatever|
|2.||It doesn't matter way we go.|
|whichever - whatever - which|
|3.||way we go is fine by me.|
|Which - Whichever - What|
|4.||The red sweater or the blue, one do you prefer?|
|what - which - whose|
|5.||method we use, we'll need to be careful.|
|Which - What - Whatever|
|6.||I wonder time he'll get here.|
|what - which - whichever|
|7.||coffee is this, yours or mine?|
|What - Which - Whose|
|8.||strange ideas you do get sometimes.|
|What - Which - Whatever|
|9.||She keeps little money she has under the mattress.|
|whichever - what - whose|
|10.||That's the guy car you bumped into yesterday.|
|what - which - whose|
|11.||Can you tell me way it is to the station?|
|what - which - whatever|
|12.||You'll never believe an amazing coincidence happened yesterday.|
|which - what - whatever|
Exercise 7b - see if you can match the wh-determiners in the exercise above to their functions. Enter the sentence numbers for each question in numerical order. There is one sentence that is not included.
|1.||Find two direct questions|
|2.||Find two indirect questions|
|3.||Find one relative clause|
|4.||Find one nominal relative clause with preparatory it|
|5.||Find two other nominal relative clauses|
|6.||Find two sentences with an exclamative determiner|
|7.||Find one sentence with an exclamative clause|
- interrogative determiners - what, which, whose
What book are you reading?
Which holiday did you decide on in the end?
Do you know whose jacket this is?
- relative determiners - whose, which (rare)
This is the man whose wife we met yesterday.
- nominal relative determiners - what, which, whatever, whichever
I don't know what book you're talking about.
Whatever choice you make is fine by me.
I'll have whichever one you don't want.
- whatever, whichever can also be used in this type of construction
Whatever decision we take, she's not going to be very happy about it.
Whichever way you look at it, we're going to have to tighten our belts.
- exclamatives - what
What a mess you've made of your room.
- approximately, roughly, about, just about
- almost, nearly, practically, virtually
- more than, less than, no fewer than
- hardly, barely, scarecely
- very, so very, too, far too
- only, not, at
Exercise 8 - join the modifiers in the box to suitable determiners in the sentences.
|1.||There were two hundred people at the wedding reception, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.|
|2.||Which was more people than we had expected.|
|3.||And I spoke to every person there.|
|4.||In fact there was a person there that I didn't know.|
|5.||Or to put it another way, there were a few people I didn't know or speak to.|
|6.||I would say that there were most twenty people I didn't know.|
|7.||In fact I was so busy talking I didn't eat much food.|
|8.||It's every day that something like that happens.|
And using determiner words as modifiers
- It's not that important.
- I fell all the better for that.
- There were some forty people there
Problem area 1 - Another and other
Exercise 9 - Complete the sentences using the expressions in the box.
|1.||I have brother.|
|2.||My brother is a dentist.|
|3.||She has sisters.|
|4.||Her sisters are still all at school.|
|5.||Have you ideas?|
|6.||Have I told you about idea of mine.|
|7.||This road's too busy. We'd better find way.|
|8.||Look! There' your sister on side of the road.|
- Indefinite - Would you like another biscuit?
- Definite - Shall we try the/this/my other one?
- Indefinite - Are there any/some more biscuits?
- Definite - Look at the/these/my other ones.
- Another few years isn't too long to wait.
- It's just another couple of kilometres.
- Another ten people are waiting outside.
- There are another dozen or so guests still to arrive.
Problem area 2 - Little and a little, few and a few
Exercise 10 - Complete the sentences using the expressions in the box.
|1.||Little, a little and less are use with nouns.|
|2.||Few, a few and fewer are used with nouns.|
|3.||A little and a few suggest that we have although not a lot.|
|4.||Little and few suggest we have for us to be really happy.|
|5.||She's got friends and spends most of her time alone at home.|
|6.||I've got money, why don't we go to the pub.|
|7.||There were people there than I thought there would be.|
|8.||There's time before the film starts, so hurry up.|
|9.||There are really good shows at the festival this year, so it's well worth going to.|
|10.||Farmers produced rice this year than last year.|
A couple (or so) of special cases
- after another predeterminer
All such questions should be addressed to my colleague.
- after a central determiner
No such problems have come to our attention.
- after a postdeterminer
Many such people are affected by this problem.
- There'll be enough time for that after lunch.
- There'll be time enough for that after lunch.
- The students always listen intently to the teacher's every word. (Yeah, right!)
- He told his supporters he spends his every waking hour thinking about them.
- The athlete showed her supple strength in her every gesture.
- The trainer carefully watched her each and every move.
Own and same
- I've got my own car.
- Are we all going in the same car?
- Can I have a glass of water, please?
- We'll need six bottles of wine.
- Could you pass me that packet of cigarettes?
- I always especially appreciate my first cup of coffee.
- Whose bar of chocolate is this?
- Look at these bunches of flowers!
- Each piece of the watch is made by hand.
Predeterminers in learners' dictionaries.
Weird and wonderful - unusual and non-standard determiners
Exercise 11 - Complete the sentences using the expressions in the box.
|1.||It doesn't matter which; one will do.|
|2.||There's milk left in the fridge. I'll have to go and buy some.|
|3.||I was just talking quietly to this policeman when policeman arrested me for loitering!|
|4.||I've asked him times, but he always forgets.|
|5.||Hey, mate! Have you got one of thingummies for opening beer? bottles|
(dialect / non-standard - used instead of 'those')
|6.||For the time, will you please do as you're told!|
|7.||She's a perfectionist and always does everything to the degree.|
|8.||That's how teachers feel about these things.|
|9.||People sometimes find British a bit reserved.|
|10.||At the foot of mountain there runs a clear stream. (from a song)|
(old fashioned / dialect / poetic) - means 'over there'
|11.||I hope students have all done your homework.|
|12.||He has a Je ne sais quoi I rather like.|
Table comparing different systems of categorisation
|articles||a, an, θ article||Group A||indefinite||central|
|demonstratives||this, that, those, these||Group A||definite||central|
|possessives||my, your, Peter's etc||Group A||definite||central|
|wh-determiners||which, what, whose, whichever etc||Group B||definite||central|
|quantifiers||some, any, no||Group B||indefinite||central|
|each, every, either, neither||Group B||quantifiers||central|
|all, both, half||Group B||quantifiers||pre|
|three quarters||Group B||quantifiers||pre|
|once, twice, three-times||Group B||quantifiers||pre|
|such, what, rather, quite||Group B||quantifiers||pre|
|many, few, several, other etc||Group B||quantifiers||post|
|next, last etc||Group B||quantifiers||post|
|numbers||one, two etc||Group B||quantifiers||post|
|first, second, third etc||Group B||quantifiers||post|
Using quantifiers before different types of noun.
|before singular countable nouns|
|before plural countable nouns|
|(a) few||a few friends|
|(not) many||(not) many friends|
|before uncountable nouns|
|(a) little||a little money|
|(not) much||(not) much money|
|a (little) bit of||a (little) bit of money|
|a (great) deal of||a (great) deal of money|
|before plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns|
|all||all roads||all chocolate|
|some||some friends||some money|
|any||any friends||any money|
|no||no friends||no money|
|more||more friends||more money|
|enough||enough friends||enough money|
|a lot of, lots of, plenty of||a lot of friends||a lot of money|
Form and function 2 - possessive my, your etc
Geeky stuff part 1.
Determiners, adjectives or pronouns?
- Subject - I, he, she, it, we, you, they
- Object - me, him, her, it, us, you, them
- Possessive (dependent) - my, his, her, its, our, your, their
- Possessive (independent) - mine, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs
- Reflexives - myself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourslves, themselves
Form and function 3 - determiners and determinatives
Geeky stuff part 2.
- David's house.
- David Cameron's house.
- The prime minister's house
- The prime minister of Britain's house.
Related posts on this blog
- Pronouns and determiners, an overview - compares the different functions
- A bit of this and that, and these and those - a look at demonstratives as determiners and as pronouns
- Some, any, somebody, anybody etc - a look at indefinite determiners / pronouns
- Confusing words another, other, different, next etc
- Articles - various quizzes
Definite, indefinite and quantifiers
Group A and Group B determiners
- Perfect Your English
- English Practice
Predeterminers, central determiners and postdeterminers
- University College London
- Introduction to English Grammar by Sydney Greenbaum and Gerald Nelson ***
- English-tm.es (pdf)
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
The six categories of determiners approach
Videos on YouTube
- How do you use determiners 2.14 - Dublin University - Whiteboard, pretty basic
- Determiners 3.20 - Parataxis7 - Good basic explanatory introduction
- Determiners 1.22 Basic composition - Quite basic
- An overview of determiners 12.21 - It's a bit slow, but I like the way this guy divides them up into two categories
- Central determiners - 14.37 - Iken Edu - very professional but a bit repetitive
- Predeterminers - 10.19 - Iken Edu - as above
- Postdeterminers 9.36 - Iken Edu - as above
- Adding determiners to noun phrases 8.30 - Hulbert45 - analysis of how determiners fit into phrases, but still quite easy. Good if you like a more diagrammatical approach
- Hamilton House ELT - to illustrate a lesson, probably for intermediate - see how many determiners you can spot.
- Wiktionary - a list of determiners
- English Jack - a list of determiners - but he calls them determinatives and doesn't include possessives
- Roberta Barresi - very detailed and includes a breakdown of categories of quantifiers.
Possessive determiners or possessive pronouns?
- Introduction to English Grammar by Sydney Greenbaum and Gerald Nelson
- English Jack - a discussion I took part in. It gets a bit technical at times.
Determinatives and determiners ***
- Pollysyllabic - determiner as word class, determinative as function
- Suite 101 - Heather Marie Kosur - she takes the same line
- Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language - determinative
- Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language - determiner
- Cambridge Grammar of the English Language - takes the opposite view - determinative as word class, determiner as function