Introducing... Determiners!

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13459

Determiners come in several different types and forms, but they all have one job: to introduce nouns. In this lesson, you'll learn how to identify and use them successfully!


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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this or that
  • What is represented by this and that in the image above?

Without a noun attached or referenced to this and that, it can be very hard to tell.

Let's learn a bit more about these little words with a big meaning known as determiners!

In grammar, a determiner is a word that comes in front of a noun and indicates the number of that noun, or clarifies to what the noun is referring.

There are four main types of determiners:

  • articles
  • demonstratives
  • possessives
  • quantifiers


The words a, an, and the tell if a noun is specific or not.

When a noun is specific, it has either been previously mentioned or referenced, is unique, or is being distinctly mentioned by the author or speaker.

  • What is the difference between a chair and the chair?

special chair

A chair could be any chair; it doesn't matter which. However, if someone told you the hat was on the chair; it would indicate a specific chair.


Demonstratives help determine where the noun is in relation to the author or speaker.

The relationship can be one of physical location, physical closeness, or distance in time. This, that, these, and those are demonstratives.

Read these two sentences:

This is the chair I left it in.

Put it in that chair over there.

  • Do you notice a distinction?

Typically, one wouldn't refer to something as this something if it weren't near to them in some way.

Imagine someone saying "This car is mine," but referring to one three rows away in a parking lot. That wouldn't make much sense!

In the second example, it is clear that the speaker is referring to a chair that is further away because of the additional information over there.


These determiners indicate who or what owns the noun to which they are attached.

Sometimes called possessive adjectives, the possessive determiners are: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose.

Tricky question alert!

Take a look at these two examples:

Look at this tiny house for a hamster. It's even got a tiny chair!

This is the hamster's tiny house. Its chair is in the corner.

  • What is the difference here?

You may have noticed in the second example, the its doesn't have an apostrophe. That's because it is not a contraction. It's only means it is, whereas its is the possessive form for it.


Quantifiers specify an amount or quantity of the noun to which they're attached.

Numbers are quantifiers, like in the phrase two dogs. However this category also includes general ideas of amounts, like many or few.

  • Would you say "there are less chairs in this room," or "there are fewer chairs in this room"?

less or fewer

Learning to use quantifiers appropriately can be a little tricky.

If you said fewer in the example above, you're right! Typically speaking, fewer is used when referring to nouns that can actually be counted, like chairs.

Less is used when the noun is a little more abstract, meaning it isn't something that can be counted. For example, you can have fewer problems, but you would have less trouble.

To review this information and explore a bit further, check out Determiners (Parts of Speech) from Grammar Monster:

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  • Ready to check what you know?

Let's move on to the Got It? section to see how well you know your determiners!

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