Determiners – Types of Determiners | List, Definition, Examples

Learn how to use determiners and types of determiners in English.

What Is a Determiner?

An important role in English grammar is played by determiners – words or phrases that precede a noun or noun phrase and serve to express its reference in the context / to give more information about the noun.

The most common of these are the definite and indefinite articles, the and a, an. Other determiners in English include demonstratives such as this and that, possessives such as my and the boy’s, and quantifiers such as all, many and three.

Common Types of Determiners

The following is a rough classification of determiners used in English, including both words and phrases:

Determiners - Types of Determiners | List, Definition, Examples

Definite Determiners

Which imply that the referent of the resulting noun phrase is defined specifically:

1. The definite article the.

Example: All the factories

2. The demonstrative adjectives

Examples: this, that, these, those

3. Possessive adjectives

Examples: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whoseone’s, everybody’s, Mary’s, a boy’s, the man we saw yesterday’s (These can be made more emphatic with the addition of own or very own.)

4. Interrogatives

Examples: which, what (these can be followed by -ever for emphasis).

5. Relative determiners: which, whichever and whatever…

Example: I’ll take whatever money they’ve got.

Indefinite Determiners

1. The indefinite article

Example: a or an

2. The word some

Used as an equivalent of the indefinite article with plural and non-count nouns (a partitive).

3. The strong form of some

Example: Some people prefer dry wine; this can also be used with singular count nouns (There’s some man at the door).

4. The word any

Often used in negative and interrogative contexts in place of the article -equivalent some (and sometimes also with singular count nouns). It can also be used to express alternative.


1. Words indicating a large or small quantity and their comparative and superlative forms

Examples: much/many, little/few, more, most, less/fewer, least/fewest.

2. Phrases expressing similar meanings to the above.

Examples: a lot of, lots of, plenty of, a great deal of, tons of, etc.

3. Words and phrases expressing some unspecified or probably quite small amount

Examples: a few/a little (learners often confuse these with few/little), several, a couple of, a bit of, a number of, etc.

4. Cardinal numbers

Examples: zero (quite rare as determiner), one, two, etc.

5. Other phrases expressing precise quantity

Examples: a pair of, five liters of, etc.

6. Words and phrases expressing multiples or fractions

Examples: half, half of, double, twice, three times, twice as much, etc.

7. Words expressing maximum, sufficient or zero quantity

Examples: all, both, enough, sufficient, no.

Note that many of these quantifiers can be modified by adverbs and adverbial phrases such as almost, over, more than, less than, when the meaning is appropriate.

Personal determiners

The words you and we/us, in phrases like we teachers; you guys can be analysed as determiners.


As all we teachers know . . .

Us girls must stick together.  (informal)

These examples can be contrasted with a similar but different use of pronouns in an appositional construction, where the use of other pronouns is also permitted but the pronouns cannot be preceded by the (pre-) determiner “all”.


I/we, the undersigned, . . . , 

We, the undersigned, . . . , (but not All we, the undersigned, . . .)

Other cases

1. The words such and “exclamative what

These are followed by an indefinite article when used with a singular noun.


Such a treat.

What a disaster!

2. Noun phrases used as determiners

Example: This color and what size (as in I like this color furniture; What size shoes do you take?)

Zero Determiners

In some contexts a complete noun phrase can exist without any determiner (or with “zero determiner”). The main types of such cases are:

1. With plural or uncountable nouns used to refer to a concept or members of a class generally


Cars are useful. (but the cars when specific cars are being referred to)

Happiness is contagious. (but the happiness when specific happiness is referred to, as in the happiness that laughter engenders…)

2. With plural or uncountable nouns used to refer to some unspecified amount of something


There are cats in the kitchen.

I noticed water on the floor.

(Here it is also possible to use some cats, some water).

3. With many proper names

Examples: Tom Smith, Birmingham, Italy, Jupiter

4. With singular common nouns in some common expressions

Examples: smiling from ear to ear, leaving town today.

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