DETERMINERS

UNDERSTANDING DETERMINERS AND THEIR ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Determiners are words that precede head nouns in a noun phraseOpens in new window.

Determiners introduce noun phrases. They express important characteristics about head nouns, such as definiteness or indefiniteness, possession, quantity and the kind of reference of the noun phrase Opens in new window.

Grammarians identify several kinds of determiners. Many of these are listed below, with examples 1) through 10).

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ORDER OF DETERMINERS IN NOUN PHRASES

It is possible to identify a relative order of occurrence for these different types of determiners with a noun phrase by looking at them in terms of the general categories listed in the table below: predeterminers, central determiners, and postdeterminers.

Predeterminers1Central Determiners2Postdeterminers
quantifiers (all, both, each)quantifiers (any, every, some)quantifiers (many, much, few, little, less, least, more, most)
multipliers (double, twice, five times)articles (a/an, the)cardinal numbers (one, two)
fractions (three-fourths, two-fifths)possessive determiners (my, our, your)cardinal numbers (one, two)
noun as possessive determiners (John’s, Liam’s)ordinal numbers (first, second, another, next, last)
demonstrative determiners (this/that)partitives (glass/bottle/jar of)

The order shown in the table represents a general tendency that applies to a sequence of pronominal modifiers. Note that different types of quantifiers can occupy different positions and are categorized accordingly; for example, all is a predeterminer, every is a central determiner, and many is a postdeterminer.

The other determiner types (multipliers, articles, partitives, etc.) each occupy just one category. A head noun can be directly preceded by a member of any category, but if determiners from different categories are used, switching the order—predeterminer, central determiner, postdeterminer —results in ungrammaticality, as 11d) and 11h) demonstrate.