UNDERSTANDING DETERMINERS AND THEIR ORDER OF APPEARANCE
Determiners are words that precede head nouns in a noun phraseOpens in new window.
Grammarians identify several kinds of determiners. Many of these are listed below, with examples 1) through 10).
- Articles (a/an, the)
- 1a) He met a woman.
- 1b) The woman got out of an airplane.
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- Demonstrative determiners (this/that, these/those)
- 2a) I want that book not this one.
- 2b) These sweaters are more expensive than those sweaters over there.
- Possessive determiners (my, his/her, our, your, its, their)
- 3a) That’s her book.
- 3b) This is my book over there.
- Nouns as possessive determiners (John’s, Liam’s)
- 4) Kim’s car is older than Jessica’s car.
- Quantifiers (all, any, few, many)
- 5a) She has all the money.
- 5b) There are many ways to do it.
- Partitives (glass of, loaf of, bit of, acre of)
- 6) He bought a loaf of bread.
- Cardinal numbers (one, two, three)
- 7) She bought three hats.
- Ordinal numbers (first, second, next, last)
- 8) That is the second time he has done that.
- Multipliers (double, twice, three times)
- 9) She bought double the amount we need.
- Fractions (three-fourths, two-fifths)
- 10) Three-fourths of the audience was made up of young people.
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.
|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.
- 11a) Both sisters wanted to go. → quantifier, noun
- 11b) The sisters wanted to go. → article, noun
- 11c) Both the sisters wanted to go. → quantifier, article, noun
- 11d) *The both sisters wanted to go. → article, quantifier, noun
- 11e) Those children are coming. → demonstrative determiner, noun
- 11f) Two children are coming. → cardinal number, noun
- 11g) →Those two children are coming. → demonstrative determiner, cardinal number, noun
- 11h) *Two those children are coming. → cardinal number, demonstrative determiner, noun