Determiners are small words that are used  with nouns. They are used before nouns. They indicate which noun we’re talking about. For example, in the phrase, My gown, the word “my” indicates which “gown” we’re talking about. Determiners have 2 functions. 

1. To show which noun we’re referring to.
2. To show the quantity of a noun. 

We’ll look at different types of determiners:

1)  Articles:

We know what articles are. They are: a, an, and the. Articles tell you which noun is being referred to: a specific noun or an unknown noun. When you use “a/an” before a noun, it means that you’re referring to some noun in general and a specific noun. When you use the article “the” before a noun, you’re referring to a specific noun.

He has a car.

This sentence states that the subject has a car and we don’t know which one it is. He has some car but we’re not stating exactly which car. The reference is not specific.

Another example: We met an actor when we were in LA.

Again, the actor is not mentioned. We know it’s an actor and it’s some actor. But, we don’t know who the actor is.

A general reference can be made using the articles “a/an.”

He bought the car we saw yesterday.

In this sentence, the speaker is referring to a particular car. Which car? The car that they saw yesterday. The reference is specific here. A specific reference can be made using the article “the.”

2) Demonstrative Determiners:

There are four demonstrative determiners. They are:

This           That
These        Those

They show which noun you’re talking about.

I booked this table.

In the above example, it’s clear which noun is being referred to. This table, not that table, but this table. Apparently, one that is closer to the speaker.


Pass me that book.
I painted these chairs.

3) Possessive Determiners: 

This type shows the owner of a noun. They show who or what a noun belongs to.

The following are possessive determiners:


Look at the sentence below.

My watch isn’t working.

The above example is talking about the watch that belongs to the speaker. This is understood from the phrase My watch.

Other examples:

This is your cabin.
Our flight is going to be delayed due to bad weather.
They sold their house recently.

4) Quantifiers:

Quantifiers give us the quantity of a noun in question. They show how much in quantity or how many in number a noun in question is. The quantity or the number shown by quantifiers is not specific. For example, they don’t tell us if the noun in reference is 4 or 5 in number or 4 or 5 pounds in weight.

They are some, any, a few, few, a little, little, much, many, more, several, each, every, both, all, enough, half, whole, less etc.,

There is a little cake in the fridge.

In the above example, the quantifier “a little” shows how much cake is in the fridge.


He had many friends in college.
Several witnesses were questioned after the incident.
Both brothers were out of town when their father had a heart attack.

5) Possessive Nouns:

A noun can be made a possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter “s” to it. A possessive noun states the name of the owner of a noun. The difference is that this determiner is formed from a noun itself unlike other determiners.

Ben’s computer is broken.

From this sentence, we can easily identify whose computer is broken. The owner of the computer is Ben and the ownership has been demonstrated by preceding the noun “computer” with the name of the owner “Ben” and adding an apostrophe and an “s” to it.

Hence, the possessive noun in the above example is “Ben’s.”


Andrea’s boyfriend is returning from Sydney tomorrow.
I have Joanna’s laptop with me.


6) Numbers:

Numbers show exactly how many in number the noun in reference is.

She has 4 sisters.

The number “4” shows how many sisters the subject has.


Dylan has ten cars.
Gina saw two movies yesterday.

Will/going to