Determiners, in English grammar, are a type of word that comes before a noun to introduce it and provide additional information about the quantity and proximity of the noun.
It helps give the reader or listener more context. For example, ‘this plate’ or ‘my house.’
Determiners can be used to describe an object in further detail, revealing additional information to help give the reader or listener a better understanding of a text.
Determiners can point out things like proximity, possession, and plurality. In simpler terms, determiners can point out:
- Proximity: i.e., how close or far away things are about the text’s narrative perspective and point of view. For example, the determiner ‘this’ in the phrase ‘this chair’ shows that the chair referred to is in proximity to the person referring to the chair. Using an alternative determiner like ‘that’ or ‘those’ chairs would indicate some distance between the chair and the person referring to the chair.
- Possession: i.e., who possesses the noun the determiner refers to. For example, ‘her shoes’ or ‘my.’
- Plurality: i.e., if a noun is singular or plural. The determiner ‘the’ in the phrase ‘the car’ refers to a specific, unique car. A determiner like ‘these’ or ‘those’ indicates the number of vehicles is plural.
Types of Determiners in English
Here are the different main types of determiners in English grammar:
- definite Articles (‘the’)
- indefinite Articles (‘a’)
- demonstratives (‘this’ or ‘that’)
- possessives (‘her.’ ‘his,’ or ‘my’)
- quantifiers (‘some’ or ‘many’)
- numbers (‘one’ or ‘two’)
Determiners Examples in Writing Composition
To understand the question ‘what is a determiner?’, it’s helpful to look at some examples.
- Alison watched with sad eyes as they took the sofa away.
- Alison watched with sad eyes as they took her mother’s sofa away.
Here, the determiner is possessive, providing more clarification on who the sofa belongs to. This hints that the sofa has a deeper meaning to Alison and makes us wonder where her mother is and why her sofa is being taken away.
Demonstrative determiners can be used for accuracy and to clarify specific things.
For instance, ‘Take a pen’ is an explicit instruction. However, ‘Take this pen’ is more specific and provides more information about which pen to take.
Numbers can also provide a clearer picture to readers or listeners. For example, there’s a great deal of difference between the following two statements:
- Stuart came downstairs, balancing some large boxes in his arms.
- Stuart came downstairs, balancing ten large boxes in his arms.