Determiner (noun): a word like the, an, this or some that comes at the beginning of a noun phrase. Determiners include the following common types:
- Articles: a/an, the
- Demonstratives: this, that, these, those
- Possessives: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, x’s (possessive ’s)
- Quantifiers: (a) few, fewer, (a) little, many, much, more, most, some, , no, any, etc..
cardinal and ordinal numbers
- Interrogative Determiners
whose, what, which
It is possible to have NO determiner: John likes dogs. People breathe air. Wine is alcohol. This is the so-called “zero determiner”, and is mainly possible with proper nouns (i.e. names), plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns.
These are the main determiners. There can be only ONE main determiner in a noun phrase:
If you have a “main determiner“, you can have only ONE. The main determiners are:
- Demonstrative Determiners
- Possessive Determiners
my, your, his, her, its, our, their
Here is a list of the determiners:
|(a) few, fewer, fewest||every||most||that|
|any||Jim’s, Anna’s, etc.||one, two, three, etc.||those|
All determiners, when present, come at the BEGINNING of a noun phrase (before any adjectives): the big black dog / my favorite car
So if you have an article, you cannot also have a demonstrative. If you have a possessive, you cannot also have an article. You can have one article OR one demonstrative OR one possessive. For example, you can say “this dog” or “my dog”, but you cannot say “
this my dog“. The table below shows how the main determiners “mutually exclude” each other:
Some determiners function as “pre-determiners” — they can come before a main determiner. You can have one: all the right people / half my weight
Pre-determiners come before main determiners and post-determiners come after main determiners.
Determiner versus Pronoun
A determiner occurs at the beginning of a noun phrase and in some way qualifies the rest of the noun phrase. A determiner cannot exist alone and often lives in a clause proceeded by clause with a pronoun to replace it.
A word will often work as a determiner and pronoun: either (determiner) and either (pronoun). Certain determiners and pronouns are close but not exactly the same, though they both personal pronouns: my (determiner) and mine (pronoun). Because an absolute possessive pronoun can be used alone unlike a possessive adjective.
- Those classic songs were great.
- My car is the big one.
A pronoun can take the place of a whole noun phrase:
- Those were great classic songs.
- Those were great.
- Mine is the big one.