What are Determiners?

What are Determiners?

Words which occur before the noun acting as head of the noun phrase or before its pre modifiers are called determiners. Determiners signal the presence of certain kinds of nouns.  A noun phrase can either have determiners with indefinite reference or a definite reference.

What are the Types of Determiners?

There are three classes of determiners:

1. Central Determiners (eg: the, a/an, this, that, every, each, no)

Articles (the/an/a) are the most typical central determiners. The definite article (i.e. the) can occur with all three noun classes (singular count, plural count, and singular noncount), but the zero (i.e. no article) and indefinite articles (a/an) cannot do so. 

  • The house was wrecked.
  • I could hear a woman's voice from the bathroom.
  • We provide an exceptional user experience.

2. Predeterminers (eg: half, all, double) 

Predeterminers occur before certain central determiners. They can be grouped into:  

  • all, both, and half - all the guys, half a year, etc.
  • the multipliers: double, twice, three times - double the income, three times my salary 
  • the fractions: one-third, one-fifth, etc - one-fourth the time
  • such, what - Such a lovely dress! What an exciting trip!

3. Postdeterminers (eg: cardinal and ordinal number: many, few)

Postdeterminers precede any adjectives and other pre modifying  items. However, they are usually found after predeterminers or central determiners (if such determiners are present). 

  • Cardinal Numerals - the three books, the four clocks, the one I love
  • Ordinal Numerals and generic ordinals - the first three months, another five weeks
  • Closed-class quantifiers - too many corrections, much money, 
  • Open-class quantifiers - plenty of time, lots of cash prizes 

Note: Determiners are sometimes classified as adjectives since they interact with nouns similar to modifiers. However, the category of determiners is broad and made up of several subclasses of words with its own unique functions. 


  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)
  • The Teacher's Grammar Book (2nd Edition) by James D. Williams (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, London, 2005)


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