Determiners are one of the topics that children learn in language classes. Whether your child is learning these words or is curious to know what role they play in a sentence, we explain what determiners are so that you can easily teach them how to identify and classify them.

What are determiners?

Determiners are words that accompany a noun to specify its meaning. Its function is to highlight the nouns to which it refers and delimit its concept. In other words, these are terms that determine the noun and differentiate it from others of the same category. In fact, they can provide information about the number, gender, possession and situation in space of a noun.

Most of the determiners are placed in pronominal position, that is, they are in front of the noun. However, there are occasions when they can also be placed behind, in which case they are considered determining adjectives. Of course, they always agree in gender and number with the noun and, if the noun is accompanied by an adjective, the determiner also agrees with said adjective.

What is the difference between determiners and pronouns?

Many children often confuse determiners with pronouns . This is because most determiners can also be used as pronouns. However, although they are the same terms and serve a very similar function, determiners and pronouns are different grammatical words. How to differentiate them?

Basically, the determiners are words that accompany the noun while the pronouns substitute it. This means that the same term can serve as a determiner if the noun is explicit in the sentence or as a pronoun if it is implicit.

For example, in the sentence “This house is white” , the term “this” plays the role of determiner since it refers to a particular house that is explicitly mentioned. However, in the sentence “This is white” , the word “this” is a pronoun that refers to a particular house that is not mentioned explicitly but implicitly.

The main types of determiners

Determiners are classified taking into account their relationship with the noun they determine. Basically, they can be classified into 4 main types: the predeterminers, the updaters, the quantifiers and the interrogatives and exclamatives, although these in turn are classified in other categories.

1. Defaults

The predeterminers are those that are placed in front of the other determiners. This category includes the terms: all, all, all and all. Example: “Read all the books” .

2. Updaters

These are determiners that update the noun from a spatial, temporal and context point of view. This group includes articles, demonstratives and possessives.

  • Articles. They indicate whether the noun they accompany is determined or indeterminate, that is, whether it is known or not. The definite articles are “el”, “la”, “los” and “las”, while the indefinite articles are “un”, “una”, “unos” and “unas”. There is also the neuter article “lo”, which accompanies adjectives , adverbs and participles. Example: “The dolphin swims fast” .
  • Demonstrative. They indicate the proximity or distance of the name or noun with respect to the person speaking. Sometimes they can function as determinative adjectives or pronouns. Demonstrative determiners include the terms that imply closeness, “this”, “this”, “these” and “these”, those that refer to a medium distance such as “that”, “that”, “those” and “ those”, and those that denote distance, “that”, “that”, “those” and “those”. Example: “These animals communicate at a distance” .
  • Possessives. They are used to indicate who owns or owns the noun they accompany. They also indicate whether it is owned by one or more people. Like demonstratives, they can also function as determinative adjectives and as pronouns. To refer to a single person, the determiners “my”, “my”, “mine”, “mine”, “mine”, “mine”, “you”, “your”, “yours”, “yours” are used. “yours”, “yours”, “his”, “his”, “his”, “hers”, “theirs” and “hers”. To refer to several people, the determined “our”, “our”, “our”, “our”, “your”, “your”, “your”, “your”, “your”, “your”, “your” are used. yours”, “yours”, “theirs” and “hers”. Example: “Your pet is in my house” .
  • Interrogatives. They indicate a question about the nature or quantity of the noun or head of the noun phrase. These include the determiners “what”, “how much” and “which”. In this case they are always accompanied by the question mark symbol. Example: “What book would you recommend?” .
  • exclamatory They indicate a feeling of surprise or excitement about the noun or head of the noun phrase. Within this category, the determiners “what”, “how much” and “which” are also used. What differentiates them from interrogatives? The use of the exclamation mark. Example: “How great!” . Quantifiers
  • They are the determiners that quantify the noun or the head of the noun phrase. These types of determiners include numerals and indefinites.
  • numerals. They refer to the quantity, number, order, multiplicity, divisibility or distribution of the noun they accompany. Within this classification are included the cardinal determiners “one”, “one”, “two”, “three”, “four”, “twenty”, “one hundred”…, the ordinal determiners that indicate position “first”, “first ”, “second”, “second”, “third”, “third”, “fifteenth”, “fifteenth”… There are also multiplicatives like “double”, “triple”, “quadruple”, “quintuple”… divisors like “half” and the distributives “both” and “sendo”. Example: “The fifth horse is the fastest . “
  • indefinite. They indicate an inexact, indefinite or undetermined amount. They are used when a being or object is named imprecisely, either because its identity, gender or number is not well known. Within this type of determiners are included “some”, “quite a lot”, “little”, “too much”, “certain”, “none”, “a lot”, “other”, “some”, “quite a lot”, “few”. ”, “too many”, “certain”, “none”, “many”, “others”, “some”, “quite a lot”, “little”, “too much”, “certain”, “none”, “a lot”, “other”, “some”, “quite a lot”, “few”, “too many”, “certain”, “none”, “many”, “others”, “more”, “less” and “so”. Example: “Some lionesses stop hunting at an early age” .

4. Interrogatives and exclamatives

These are the determiners that introduce the noun in interrogative or exclamatory sentences, that is, they are used in questions and exclamations. They are usually used at the beginning of the sentence.