What is a Determiner? Definition, Examples of Grammatical Determiners

Determiner definition: A determiner is a word that comes before a noun or noun phrase to clarify if the noun is specific or general.

What is a Determiner?

What is a determiner in grammar? A determiner is a word that comes before a noun or noun phrase. A determiner identifies whether the noun or noun phrase is general or specific.

Example of a Determiner:

Let’s use the word “dog” for an example.

“Dog” with determiners:

  • A dog barked.
  • The dog barked.
  • According to Renfroe, his dog Savanna was able to pick up the intruder’s unique scent with no more than an “open air sniff” of the general vicinity in which he’d been an hour earlier. –The Washington Post

Parts of speech determiner phraseIn the first example, we do not know which dog barked. The determiner, “a,” is general in nature.

In the second example, a specific dog barked. The determiner, “the,” is specific in nature.

Determiner vs. Adjective

What does determiner mean? A determiner clarifies a general or specific noun.

What does adjective mean? An adjective modifies a noun.

Determiners and adjectives look similar because they both are placed before a noun. Additionally, both adjectives and determiners provide greater detail to nouns.

Determiners examples and determiners definitionHowever, a determiner shows the relationship of the noun to the speaker whereas an adjective describes a quality of the noun.

Let’s use “dog” again as an example.

  • My brown dog barked.

Here, “my” is the determiner and “brown” is the adjective. The word, “my” shows the dog’s relationship to the speaker, whereas “brown” is simply a quality of the dog.

Here’s another example,

  • I spent the afternoon reading them next to my dog, who couldn’t quite understand why this was more important than the walk he was expecting to take. –New York Post

Types of Determiners

What is determiners grammarHere is a list of determiners along with examples of each.

Determiner Examples and Types:

Articles are determiners. They modify a noun in that they identify specific or general.

  • a picture (general)
  • an elephant (general)
  • the show (specific)

Demonstrative pronouns are determiners. They modify a noun in that they specify the noun.

  • this hat (singular)
  • that hat (singular)
  • these hats (plural)
  • those hats (plural)

Possessive nouns and pronouns are determiners. They modify a noun in that they specify to whom something belongs.

  • Jared’s car
  • his toy
  • their house

Indefinite pronouns are determiners. They modify a noun in that they refer to a general quantity.

  • every bottle
  • any magazine
  • some pens

Numbers are determiners. They modify a noun in that they specify a quantity.

  • one rug
  • four towns
  • fifty flowers

Function of the Determiner

Noun determiners and possessive determiners examplesWhat is the function of determiners in grammar? A determiner clarifies specific or general. It also identifies the relationship of an item to the speaker.

A determiner can specify/identify the following:

  • quantity
    • much homework
    • three cups
  • possession
    • our vacation
    • Sera’s shoes
  • specificity
    • that clock
    • those players
  • definiteness
    • the door
    • the aircraft

Summary: What are Determiners?

Define determiner: the definition of determiner is a word that modifies a noun by determining the kind of reference it has.

Determiners are placed before nouns and make them general or specific.

Determiners are different than adjectives in that they show the relationship to the speaker whereas an adjective describes a quality of the noun.

[i]
[i]