In the midst of all the nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles a student is expected to learn, the determiner is often left by the wayside, untaught or taught incorrectly. The determiner is an important noun modifier which contextualizes a noun, often in terms of quantity and possession. Determiners in English precede a noun phrase and include demonstratives, possessives, and quantifiers.
There are many different determiners in the English language.
There are many other types of determiners. For instance, cardinal numbers, the numbers that are written out in English, are also included in the class of determiners. Determiners are generally split into two groups—definite determiners and indefinite determiners.
A determiner can take on a number of different meanings and roles in a sentence. First and foremost, the determiner is used in every case to clarify the noun. They may be used to demonstrate or define something or someone. Quantifiers state how many of a thing, in number or expression. A determiner is used to show that the noun indicated is a specific one (that one), not an unspecific one (any). It may also state the differences between nouns. While determiners may have a number of other functions, most of them are related to these key areas. If that sounds like a lot to swallow, don’t worry. The list of determiners only numbers at about 50 words, and all of these words are commonly used by most individuals. Determiners are not difficult to get the grasp of when contrasted with adjectives, and do not take too long for native English speakers to grasp. After all, how many times have you had trouble deciding whether to say “the” or “a”?
How should one choose which determiner to use? For those who were raised speaking the English language, determining which determiner to use is second-nature, since determiners are so often used in front of nouns. Like the basic parts of speech, determiners are so ingrained into the English language that using them is simple. The same goes for most Indo-European languages (for instance, Romance languages such as Spanish and the Germanic languages such as German). However, the languages of other countries may not use determiners, or may have sets of rules very different than the English language does. For these individuals, learning how and where to use determiners can be rather difficult.
Until recently, English teaching in schools did not take determiners into account. Many determiners were simply lumped into the category of “adjectives,” which works for some but certainly not for all. Adjectives have primarily three functions: they modify noun phrases, or complement the object or subject of a sentence. The function of determiner is to express proximity, relationship, quantity, and definiteness. Determiners are not gradable as are adjectives. For example, a person may be angry, angrier, or the angriest. A person can not be “her-est” or “the-est.” Determiners are usually necessary (or obligatory) in a sentence, whereas adjectives are not. Adjectives, unlike determiners, cannot have corresponding pronouns. Therefore, adjectives and determiners are distinct from one another and cannot simply be lumped into the same category.