Articles, Determiners, and Quantifiers
determiners, and quantifiers are those little words that precede and modify
teacher, a college, a bit of honey, that person, those
people, whatever purpose, either way, your choice
these words will tell the reader or listener whether we're referring to a
specific or general thing (the garage out back; A horse! A
horse! My kingdom for a horse!); sometimes they tell how much or how
many (lots of trees, several books, a great deal of
confusion). The choice of the proper article or determiner to precede a noun or
noun phrase is usually not a problem for writers who have grown up speaking
English, nor is it a serious problem for non-native writers whose first
language is a romance language such as Spanish. For other writers, though, this
can be a considerable obstacle on the way to their mastery of English. In fact,
some students from eastern European countries — where their native language has
either no articles or an altogether different system of choosing articles and
determiners — find that these "little words" can create problems long
after every other aspect of English has been mastered.
are said to "mark" nouns. That is to say, you know a determiner will
be followed by a noun. Some categories of determiners are limited (there are
only three articles, a handful of possessive pronouns, etc.), but the
possessive nouns are as limitless as nouns themselves. This limited nature of
most determiner categories, however, explains why determiners are grouped apart
from adjectives even though both serve a modifying function. We can imagine
that the language will never tire of inventing new adjectives; the determiners
(except for those possessive nouns), on the other hand, are well established,
and this class of words is not going to grow in number. These categories of
determiners are as follows: the articles (an, a, the — see below; possessive nouns
(Joe's, the priest's, my mother's); possessive pronouns, (his, your, their,
whose, etc.); numbers (one, two, etc.); indefinite pronouns (few, more, each,
every, either, all, both, some, any, etc.); and demonstrative pronouns. The demonstratives
(this, that, these, those, such) are discussed in the section on Demonstrative Pronouns.
Notice that the possessive nouns differ from the other determiners in that
they, themselves, are often accompanied by other determiners: "my
mother's rug," "the priest’s collar," "a
Notes on Quantifiers
articles, quantifiers are words that precede and modify nouns. They tell
us how many or how much. Selecting the correct quantifier depends on your
understanding the distinction between Count and Non-Count Nouns.
For our purposes, we will choose the count noun trees and the non-count
The following quantifiers will work with count nouns:
a few trees
a couple of trees
none of the trees
The following quantifiers will work with non-count
not much dancing
a little dancing
a bit of dancing
a good deal of dancing
a great deal of dancing
The following quantifiers will work with both
count and non-count nouns:
all of the trees/dancing
most of the trees/dancing
a lot of trees/dancing
lots of trees/dancing
plenty of trees/dancing
a lack of trees/dancing
formal academic writing, it is usually better to use many and much
rather than phrases such as a lot of, lots of and plenty of.
is an important difference between "a little" and "little"
(used with non-count words) and between "a few" and "few"
(used with count words). If I say that Tashonda has a little experience
in management that means that although Tashonda is no great expert she does
have some experience and that experience might well be enough for our purposes.
If I say that Tashonda has little experience in management that means
that she doesn't have enough experience. If I say that Charlie owns a few
books on Latin American literature that means that he has some books — not
a lot of books, but probably enough for our purposes. If I say that Charlie
owns few books on Latin American literature, that means he doesn't have
enough for our purposes and we'd better go to the library.
Unless it is
combined with of, the quantifier "much" is reserved for
questions and negative statements:
Much of the snow has already melted.
snow fell yesterday?
Note that the
quantifier "most of the" must include the definite article the
when it modifies a specific noun, whether it's a count or a non-count noun:
"most of the instructors at this college have a doctorate";
"most of the water has evaporated." With a general plural
noun, however (when you are not referring to a specific entity), the
"of the" is dropped:
colleges have their own
students apply to several
article is sometimes used in conjunction with the quantifier many, thus
joining a plural quantifier with a singular noun (which then takes a singular
young man has fallen in love
with her golden hair.
apple has fallen by October.
This construction lends itself to a somewhat
literary effect (some would say a stuffy or archaic effect) and is best used
sparingly, if at all.
occur prior to other determiners (as you would probably guess from their name).
This class of words includes multipliers (double, twice, four/five times
. . . .); fractional expressions (one-third, three-quarters, etc.); the
words both, half, and all; and intensifiers such as quite,
rather, and such.
precede plural count and mass nouns and occur with singular count nouns
denoting number or amount:
holds three times the passengers as that sports car.
My wife is
making double my / twice my salary.
we added five times the amount of water.
expressions, we have a similar construction, but here it can be replaced
with "of" construction.
finished in one-fourth [of] the time his brother took.
of the respondents reported
that half the medication was sufficient.
occur in this construction primarily in casual speech and writing and are more
common in British English than they are in American English. The intensifier
"what" is often found in stylistic fragments: "We visited my
brother in his dorm room. What a mess!"
is rather a mess, isn't it?
ticket-holders made quite a fuss when they couldn't get in.
What an idiot he turned out to be.
vacation was such a grand experience.
and all can occur with singular and plural count nouns; half
and all can occur with mass nouns. There are
also "of constructions" with these words ("all [of] the
grain," "half [of] his salary"); the "of construction"
is required with personal pronouns ("both of them," "all
of it"). The following chart (from Quirk and Greenbaum) nicely describes
the uses of these three predeterminers:
To be continued