Determiners Online Lesson

Determiners Definition

Determiners are words that identify whether or not a noun is specific or general. They are used to helps us know if we are talking about a particular object or any object. For example, Lord of the Rings is a specific book so it would need a specific determiner. A General determiner would be used if we were talking any book or all books in general.

Many different words fill the role of determiner.

Some examples are: a, an, the, any, all, both, little, many, some, several, few, each, either, this, that, these, those, one, two, three, and all other numbers.

Types of Determiners

Determiners can be grouped into various types such as specific and general, count and non-count etc. A determiner can belong to more than one type.

Specific and General Determiners

“A” and “an” are the most common general determiners, and “the” is the most common specific determiner.


I want to watch a new film. - “A” is a general determiner and it tells us that it could be any film you are talking about.

The films that are showing this week look awesome. – “The” is a specific determiner because it refers to only a certain group of films.

"All", "those", "this", "that", and numbers are also specific determiners, while "few", "some", "several", "little", and "many" are general determiners.


All students at the school participate in the fire drill. – “All” is specific to the students in the school.

Some students at the school participate in the fire drill. – “Some” is general and refers to some students but not others.

Count and Non-Count Determiners

Count determiners are used when we can count the specific number of the noun given. Books, cats, people, pens, and cookies would all be count nouns and would need count determiners. Water, sun, air, fear, love, time and space are non-count nouns and would need non-count determiners.

Use “many” and “few” with count nouns. Use “much” and “little” with non-count nouns.


Many writers have published fantasy books. – “Many” is a count determiner because you can count the number of writers.

There are a few ways to ensure you earn a passing grade. – “few” is a count determiner because you can count the number of ways.

Mike spent much time on researching ancient cultures. – “Much” is a non-count determiner because time cannot be counted (only the measurements of time can be counted.)

Little concern has been given to how cell phones may harm us. - "Little" is a non-count noun because concern cannot be counted or measured.

Distance in time or place

“This” and “these” both refer to things that are physically close to the speaker in time or place.

Use “that” and “those” to refer to things that are physically distant from the speaker in time or place.


These days, many books are written in the fantasy genre. - "These" because we talk about the current days that are close to us.

This book I just finished reading was interesting. - "This" because the book that is right here close to us.

In those early years of my schooling, I was not the best student. - "those" because we talk about years that are way in the past.

In that building, there is a library. - "that" because we refer to a building that is further away.

The relations between determiners and other grammatical objects

Determiners and nouns

Determiners are directly connected to the nouns that they modify and describe. The type of noun determines the type of determiner you will need to use. An example of this is the count and non-count nouns.

Determiners and pronouns

Determiners work with nouns. Pronouns are words that are used to replace nouns in sentences. We can say “Johnny went to the store” and ‘the’ is a determiner. The pronoun would be a replacement for ‘Johnny’ but there is no determiner for that and there is no pronoun for store. So therefore, determiners only work with nouns.

Determiners and prepositions

Determiners can appear within prepositional phrases at times. Take the following sentence for example- “I am going to the store to get some milk.” “to the store” and “to get some milk” are prepositional phrases. Within those phrases are the specific determiners “the” and the general determiner “some.” So as you can see, determiners can come within prepositional phrases.