Determiners, which are also called determinatives by some grammarians, are words or phrases that precede nouns. This complex word class in English includes:
- the articles: a/an and the
- demonstrative adjectives: e.g. this/these, that/those
- possessive pronouns: e.g. my, his, your, their
- interrogative and relative pronouns: e.g. what, which, whose
- quantifying adjectives: e.g. all, some, many, most, either
- numerals: e.g one, six, second, ninth
There are various types of mistake that English learners make when using determiners. The most common mistake is the incorrect choice of the article preceding a noun. This is one of the most difficult issues in all of English grammar.
Another difficulty is getting the order of determiners right when more than one precedes the noun. For example, it is my old dog but all my dogs. And it has to be such a nice day, not a such nice day.
English language learners and native speakers alike have problems knowing whether to use a singular or plural verb after nouns preceded by certain determiners. For example, is it A pair of shoes was on the table or A pair of shoes were on the table? And what about Two weeks is a long time or Two weeks are long time?
To use the determiners correctly you should consult a good grammar guide such as Swan's Practical English Usage.
Note: You can practise using the articles correctly on the Grammar Activities section of this website.