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Some of the determiners in English


A word or a group of words that introduces a noun. Determiners include articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessive determiners.

Determiners are functional elements of structure and not formal word classes.

See also:



From the Latin, "limit, boundary"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The determiner class is one of the structure classes that straddle the line between a word class and a function. On the one hand, our most common determiners, the articles, do indeed constitute a small, closed structure class. At the other end of the spectrum are the possessive nouns, which function as determiners while retaining their membership in the open class 'noun.' In between are the subclasses of determiners that belong to the closed pronoun class: Demonstrative, possessive, and indefinite pronouns all function as determiners; and, of course, as pronouns they also function as nominals (in fact, 'pronominal' would be a more accurate label than 'pronoun').

    "Determiners signal nouns in a variety of ways: They may define the relationship of the noun to the speaker or listener (or reader); they may identify the noun as specific or general; they may quantify it specifically or refer to quantity in general."
    (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, 5th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)

  • "There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting."
    (David Letterman)

  • "Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most."
    (Joseph Wood Krutch)

  • "When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, 'Did you sleep good?' I said 'No, I made a few mistakes.'"
    (Steven Wright)

  • "Determiners are sometimes called limiting adjectives in traditional grammar. However, they not only differ from the class of adjectives by meaning, but also must normally precede ordinary adjectives in noun phrase structure. Further, among determiners themselves there are co-occurrence restrictions and fairly strict rules of word order."
    (Sylvia Chalker and Edmund Weiner, Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 1994)

  • Word Order With Multiple Determiners
    When there is more than one determiner, follow these useful rules:
    a) Place all and both in front of other determiners.
    E.g. We ate all the food. Both my sons are at college.
    b) Place what and such in front of a and an in exclamations.
    E.g. What an awful day! I've never seen such a crowd!
    c) Place many, much, more, most, few, little after other determiners.
    E.g. His many successes made him famous. They have no more food. What little money I have is yours.
    (Geoffrey N. Leech, Benita Cruickshank, and Roz Ivanič, An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage, 2nd ed. Longman, 2001)

    "Nouns can . . . be introduced by more than one determiner: the six houses, all eight dogs, a few people--and these elements must . . . occur in a particular order. We know, for example, that *eight all dogs is ungrammatical but that all eight dogs is fine. We also know that certain nouns need no determiner at all: generic nouns and mass nouns can occur without them.
    Lions roar. (generic plural noun)
    Lou makes lovely jewelry. (mass noun)
    And  proper names usually occur without determiners, too."
    (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone. Wadsworth, 2010)


Pronunciation: dee-TURM-i-nur

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