June 20, 2014

Free English Lesson: How to use articles, determiners and quantifiers

2 minute read

What is the most awkward thing about learning English? For many people, it can be the really little details – like those little words that come before nouns, especially if your native language does not use anything similar!

Articles, determiners and quantifiers are the main types of words that go before a noun – and give a lot of important information about what the noun is. Read on to understand just how to use them!

What is an article?

An article comes before a noun, and shows what type of noun it is. Articles can be definite or indefinite.

The definite article is ‘the’. An indefinite article is the word ‘a’ or ‘an’.

The difference between when to use each of these depends on whether the noun is specific and known, or not. For something specific, you use the definite article, and for something uncertain, you use the indefinite.

Eg. Definite: “The American president gave a speech at this year’s ceremony.”

Eg. Indefinite: “I saw a red car parked outside.”

What are determiners?

Determiners are also used to affect a noun in some way. In fact, the articles we just looked at are a type of determiner. But there are some additional ones to note too, including demonstrative determiners and possessives.

Demonstrative determiners include ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’, and ‘those’.  All of these describe the identity of the noun you are referring to.

To see the difference, look at what happens when you change a definite article for a demonstrative determiner.

Definite article: “The last time I saw her, she was getting into the red car with the man.”

Demonstrative determiner: “The last time I saw her, she was getting into that red car, with those men.”

The demonstrative form gives a much clearer idea of the identity of the noun.

Similarly, possessive pronouns show who the noun belongs to. These include “my”, “your”, “his”, “her”, “its”, and “our”.

Eg. “The last time I saw her, she was getting into my red car, with her boyfriend.”

What are quantifiers?

Quantifiers express the quantity of a noun, and can be used with both countable and non-countable nouns.

These include the words “some”, “any”, “few”, “more”, “many”, “half” and lots more.

Eg. “Many of the cakes she had made were stale”.

You can also use the quantifiers, “every” and “each” before a singular noun – to describe all of the items in a group.

Eg. “Every child in the class was given a new pen.”

“Each competition had the same amount of prize money.”

Your turn

Practice makes perfect, so to get to grips with these grammatical terms, there’s no better way to learn than putting them into action! Write a few sentences in a different ways by changing the determiners and articles, and see how it impacts the meaning each time.