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What Is a Determiner? (with Examples)

What Is a Determiner?

A determiner is a type of adjective. A determiner always precedes a noun. The function of a determiner is to modify a noun to indicate quantity, possession, specificity, or definiteness.

Examples of Determiners Indicating Quantity

  • He has four dogs.
  • He has many dogs.
  • He has no dogs.
The determiners that indicate quantity are the cardinal numbers (one, two, three, etc.) and indefinite adjectives (e.g., many, much, most, no, several, some).

Examples of Determiners Indicating Possession

  • Beware of his dogs.
  • Beware of our dogs.
The determiners that indicate possession are the possessive adjectives. The possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose.

Examples of Determiners Indicating Specificity

  • I love this dog.
  • I love those dogs.
The determiners that indicate specificity are the demonstrative adjectives. The demonstrative adjectives are this, that, these, and those.

Examples of Determiners Indicating Definiteness

  • I need a dog.
  • I need the dog.
The determiners that indicate specificity are the articles. The articles are the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a, an).

The Difference between Normal Adjectives and Determiners

The grammar world is divided on whether determiners are classified as adjectives. Here at Grammar Monster, we teach that a determiner is a type of adjective. However, it's worth knowing that some grammarians consider determiners the ninth part of speech. (NB: The eight parts of speech are adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, nouns, prepositions, pronouns, and verbs.)

Listed below are the differences between normal adjectives and determiners (shaded):

(1) Unlike a normal adjective, a determiner cannot have a comparative form or a superlative form.

For example:
  • Happier dog
  • (Happier is the comparative form of happy.)
  • Happiest dog
  • (Happiest is the superlative form of happy.)
  • His dog
  • A dog
  • That dog
  • (There are no comparative forms or superlative forms of determiners.)
(2) Unlike a normal adjective, a determiner often cannot be removed from the sentence.

For example:
  • I have a happy dog.
  • I have a dog
  • I have happy dog.
  • (Often a determiner cannot be removed.)
(3) Unlike a normal adjective, a determiner can have an antecedent (i.e., something it refers back to).

For example:
  • They are happy dogs.
  • (A normal adjective (here, happy) does not refer back to another noun.)
  • Do you know Jane? These are her dogs.
  • (Often a determiner refers back to another noun. In this example, her refers back to Jane.)
  • Please walk the dogs.
  • (Often a determiner refers back to something previously specified. In this example, the denotes some specific dogs.)
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