What Are Determiners? Definition, Types, and Examples

20 September 2023 / Team Fun English Course

Determiners are important, both in verbal interaction and in writing. By understanding them, you’ll be able to describe your intention as effectively and clearly as possible. What are determiners, and how do you use them correctly? Let’s scroll along and find out.

What is a Determiner?

What is determiner

Before diving into the meaning of determiner, let’s glance at this sentence:

“I had apple for lunch”

At a glance, there’s nothing wrong with the sentence. However, it’s a bit unclear and grammatically incorrect. How many apples does the person have?

Now, let’s compare it to this one”

“I had an apple for lunch.”


“I had some apples for lunch.”

In those sentences, ‘an’ and ‘some’ serve as a determiner that displays the quantity of the noun, which is ‘apple’. The former sentence tells that the speaker only had one apple, while the latter shows that he/she had more.

Determiners in English grammar are used to describe or clarify the noun that it refers to. Therefore, it always appears before the noun.

Do you always have to use a determiner? The answer is yes for a singular noun. However, for plural nouns, that’s not always the case. For example:

“I had apples for lunch.”

The sentence is clear and just as grammatically correct as if you use ‘some’ as the determiner. So, the use of a determiner for plural nouns is optional.

Types of Determiners

Types of determiners

There are various types of determiners, and each indicates a different purpose. Here are six of them, along with examples:

1. Articles

In English, articles are used to tell whether the noun is definite (specific) or indefinite (unspecific). There are only three article determiners: ‘ the’, ‘a’, and ‘an’.

  • I want to adopt a cat.
  • I went to the shelter to adopt a cat. The cat was a yellow Persian, and he’s very cute.

2. Possessive

The possessive determiner shows ownership, aka what or who the noun belongs to. What considered possessive determiners are ‘their’, ‘our’, ‘its’, ‘her’, ‘his’, ‘my’, and ‘your’.

  • Sorry, I forgot he’s your boyfriend.
  • Her mouth is always bigger than her brain.
  • Taylor Swift’s songs have always been our songs.
  • This croissant tastes better than its ads would suggest.

3. Demonstrative

‘Those’, ‘these’, ‘that’, and ‘this’ are some examples of demonstrative determiners. They are used to describe the position of the noun, whether it’s near or far, in the context of time or space.

  • This book is so heavy, I can’t put it in my bag.
  • That cheese is moldy. Don’t eat it.
  • Why do you do it? These are not your food, and you know it.
  • Those were the worst pieces of advice that you ever gave me.
  • I feel like we’re getting more and more apart these days.

4. Interrogative

You use interrogative determiners to find out specific information about a noun. Those are ‘what’, ‘whose’, and ‘which’.

  • You said you bought food for us. Which one is mine?
  • Whose turn it is to clean the toilet?
  • What kind of skirts do you need? I can buy it for you.

5. Distributive

You use distributive determiners to specify, identify, or rule out a group or an individual within a larger group. Distributive determiners are ‘half’, ‘all’, ‘each’, ‘every’, ‘either’, and ‘neither’.

  • I know half of you smoke cigarettes.
  • Neither of her sons got into a college.
  • We need 100 signatures, so each of you needs to sign.

6. Quantifier

Quantifier determiners show the amount of the noun. They are ‘none’, ‘few’, ‘some’, and ‘little’.

  • Don’t test me. I have little patience today.
  • Some of you need to repent to God.

Knowing what are determiners and how to use them correctly will help you look like a seasoned English speaker. At the end of the day, it will help you gain more confidence. To learn more about grammar, do call us at Fun English Course and reach the level of English proficiency that you desire in a fun way!

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