When I arrived at their house, the big dog, which was called Rover, was barking loudly because it was lonely.

Determiners are words like the, a, an, my, any, which always stand before the noun (and its accompanying modifiers ).

a dog the big dog

my first novel

They ‘determine’ how the noun is to be interpreted.

Typical nouns like dog, i.e. singular countable common nouns, usually require a determiner:

I saw a dog I saw the dog

I saw my dog

I saw every dog

Not: I saw dog.

The definite article (the) and the indefinite articles (a, an) are just one kind of determiner.

The determiner word class also includes words that traditional grammars used to classify as adjectives:

this and that this dog, that dog
all, every and some all dogs, every dog, some dogs
numbers one dog, two dogs, three dogs
his, her, my etc. his dog, her dog, my dog, their dog


Self-assessment on determiners

[2016 note: unfortunately the links no longer work, but you may find the exercise useful even without the answers.]

Pick out the determiners in the text below, ignoring the underlined non-determiners.

Well it would most likely be a rabbit or guinea pig – they would have all of the fur on their backs shaved off. (Key Stage 3 pupil’s writing)



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