Determiners: Definition, Types & Usage

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  • 0:04 What Are Determiners?
  • 1:22 Types of Determiners
  • 3:36 Main Uses of a Determiner
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In the English language, determiners are used to clarify and emphasize nouns. Determiners have many types, including articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives. In this lesson, we will cover the definition, types, and uses of determiners.

What are Determiners?

Most native English speakers couldn't identify a determiner, even if it was staring them right in the face. The funny thing is that most English speakers use determiners every day in speech and writing. In English, determiners are important to proper sentence structure and comprehension. Determiners are important because they work to clarify nouns and make a sentence as precise and focused as possible. Many parts of speech, such as articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives, can act as a determiner. In this lesson, we will go over the definition of a determiner, discuss the types of determiners, and explore the uses of determiners.

Determiners are words that come before a noun and serve to modify the noun. Determiners modify nouns by providing context and specificity to the noun. Let's take a look at the following sentence and identify the modifier:

  • That cat is very fat.

The word 'that' is the determiner. The determiner moves to specify exactly which cat the speaker is referring to in order to clarify and contextualize the information.

Many different parts of speech can operate as determiners. Like stated previously, articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessives are the most popular types of words that can be determiners.

Types of Determiners

Let's take a few moments to look at some different types of determiners.

Articles

Articles are the most popular types of determiners. The main articles are 'the,' 'a,' and 'an.' 'The' is a definite article, which means it refers to a specific person, place, or thing. Using the word 'the' as a determiner increases the exactness of the subject in a sentence. On the other hand, 'a' and 'an' are indefinite articles, which means that the noun they precede isn't an exact person, place or, thing; rather, the article creates a more generalized noun. Take a look at the following examples:

  • The cat eats the mouse's cheese.
  • A cat ate the mouse's cheese.
  • An apple fell from the tree.
  • The apple fell from the tree.

Possessives

Possessive words such as 'ours,' 'yours,' 'mine,' 'theirs,' 'hers,' and 'his' can be used as determiners. A possessive determiner provides context in a sentence because it informs the reader what belongs to the subject. Here are a few examples:

  • Her car is over there.
  • Is your coffee on the counter?

Demonstratives

Demonstratives serve as determiners that locate a noun in a specific location. Words such as 'that,' 'this,' 'there,' 'these,' and 'those' can work as determiners, since demonstratives basically identify an object based on its location. Let's read a few examples:

  • Did you want to eat that pizza?
  • That cat isn't very friendly.
  • Are those your shoes?
  • Do these pictures go in the photo album?
  • I didn't want this flavor.

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