flesl.net grammar glossary::determiners


• Determiners make up one of seven English word classes. One subgroup of determiners, the articles, is particularly important from the point of view of students of English.

• Determiners are always used together with nouns. Nouns are used to refer and determiners “determine” how they refer. For example, in the sentence,

Jack is reading a book.

the use of the indefinite article “a” indicates that the reference is “general” (not to a particular book) and in the sentence

Jack is reading the book.

the use of the definite article,“the”indicates that the reference is definite (to a particular book)

• Determiners are divided into three main groups: central determiners (the articles and other words such as “my,” “this,” and “some” that also function as pronouns); predeterminers (for example “all,”“both,”“twice,”“such,”); post determiners (for example “many,”“few,”“several”).

• More than one determiner can be used before a noun. For example in the sentence:

All his many friends visited Harry in the hospital.

-the noun “friends” is preceded by three determiners: first the predeterminer “all,”; next, the central determiner “his,” (a pronoun acting as a determiner); and finally the postdeterminer “many.”

• lexical note: Central determiners are called “central” because they are placed between predeteminers and postdeterminers. (The suffix “pre” means “before” and the prefix “post” means “after.”)

• teaching note: it is probably worth emphasizing the fact that the role of central determiner is often played by a word that functions both as a determiner and a pronoun. In this way it should be possible not only to avoid some of the confusion bound to be caused by a (genuinely) confusing fact, but also to take advantage of an excellent example of a generally significant fact: the ability of a particular word to belong to more than one word class.