What is a Determiner in Grammar?
A determiner is a word that directly precedes a noun and modifies said noun. There are four categories for determiners: Articles, which include a, an, and the; Quantifiers, which include many, several, and enough; Possessive Pronouns, such as his, her, and their; as well as Possessive Nouns, such as Sarah’s, Bill’s, and Martha’s.
Hi, and welcome to this video on determiners! Determiners are a very common type of word; one that we use on a daily basis without even thinking about it. In fact, I’ve already used six of them just in those first two sentences! Today, we’ll be looking at what determiners actually are and why they are so useful.
At its most basic, a determiner is a word used to introduce a noun. If we look at this sentence, we see that it contains three nouns: “determiner,” “word,” and “noun.” Each of these nouns is introduced using a specific determiner: “a.”
The word “a” is what we call an article, which is one of the most common types of determiners to use and the first type of determiner we’re going to look at. There are two types of articles: definite and indefinite.
Definite article: the
Indefinite articles: a, an
The definite article “the” refers to specific nouns:
“The man washed the car.”
“The gigantic snake slithered away.”
The indefinite articles, on the other hand, refer to nouns in a more general sense:
“An airplane is much faster than a boat.”
“A book is a great present.”
In this first sentence, there is no particular airplane or boat being referred to; instead, the first sentence is making a general claim about the speed of airplanes as compared to boats. In the second, we’re not talking about a specific book, just the general idea that books make for good presents.
Finally, note that in each of these sentences a determiner is required because the nouns in the sentence are singular. If any of the articles were erased, the sentences would sound pretty odd and be grammatically incorrect. If our sentence contains plural nouns, we don’t necessarily need a determiner. For example:
“Books are great presents.”
“I love watching movies and playing games.”
These are grammatically correct without the inclusion of any determiners.
Another type of determiner is the demonstrative pronoun. Like definite articles, demonstrative pronouns refer to specific nouns. In fact, demonstrative pronouns are even more specific than definite articles. There are four demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these, and those. Note that this and that are singular, while these and those are plural.
“This house is gigantic.”
“Can you bring me that cup of coffee?”
“These eggs are rotten.”
“Those cicadas are incredibly loud!”
In all of these sentences, we’re talking about specific objects that we can see or point to.
If we want to refer to how much of something or how little of something there is, we use quantifiers. Unlike articles and demonstrative pronouns, there are a vast number of quantifiers, including few, a little, much, many, a lot of, most, some, any, enough, and all.
“There are many people in the auditorium.”
“Most children like going to the zoo.”
“Few spiders have lethal venom.”
“All the money in the world won’t buy happiness.”
If we want to show who owns or possesses a noun, possessive pronouns are the determiners we use. The possessive pronouns are my, your, his, her, its, our, and their.
“I lost my favorite video game.”
“Your cat is adorable.”
“His garden isn’t doing too well this year.”
“Look at her car!”
“The dog protects its family.”
“Our hometown is quite small.”
“Their delicious dish is made with beef and potatoes.”
Note here that possessive pronouns come before any modifying adjectives. For instance, we say “I lost my favorite video game,” not “I lost favorite my video game.”
Now that we’re familiar with the different types of determiners, let’s review some of the more important rules for using them:
1. Like I mentioned earlier, determiners are required before all singular nouns.
“The man walked down the road.”
2. Plural nouns do not require determiners. If no determiner is used, the meaning of the sentence will likely change.
“The dogs are awesome!” vs. “Dogs are awesome!”
The first sentence is referring to specific dogs: maybe your dogs or maybe the one you see on your route to work. Meanwhile, the second sentence is a general statement that refers to all dogs.
3. If there is an adjective describing the noun, the determiner will come before the adjective.
“The cute kitten jumped on the red sofa.”
Here, “cute” and “red” are adjectives describing “kitten” and “sofa,” respectively. Note that the determiner for each noun is placed before both adjectives.
As you can see, it’s important to know which determiners to use so we can easily clarify nouns and convey our thoughts as effectively as possible.
I hope this review was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!