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Advanced Grammar for IELTS : Determiners Advanced Grammar for IELTS : Determiners
Advanced Grammar for IELTS : Determiners

Advanced Grammar for IELTS : Determiners

Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Determiners – Diagnose Test, Grammar Explanation & Practice Exercises

Determiners or noun signals are the special adjectives used before nouns. There are different types of determines like, Articles (a, an, the), demonstratives (this, that, these, those), possessives (my, your, his, her, ours, theirs), quantifiers (few. little, fewer, many, much, more, less).

Usage of Determiners

Determiners can be used in the following ways:

  • Determiners come in the noun phrase.
  • Determiners are required with the singular nouns.
  • To speak about singular nouns, we use the indefinite articles.
  • While talking about plural nouns, determiners are not used.

Diagnostic Test: Determiners

Complete each sentence with a/an the or – (no article).


  • All our towels are made of____Egyptian cotton.
  1. Ruthless poachers hunt___ elephant for the valuable ivory of its tusks.
  2. Next week I’ll be reviewing a stunning new film___film stars Michael Douglas and is directed by Curtis Hanson.
  3. Yesterday evening’s Nature Scope about___sun’s future worried a large number of viewers.
  4. Muhammad Ali was voted____greatest sports personality of the twentieth century.
  5. It is commonly accepted today that____brown bread is good for you.
  6. Many research scientists are inspired by___hope of curing diseases by genetic engineering.
  7. Fewer people attend____church regularly now than twenty years ago.
  8. Julianne studied for seven years to become____criminal lawyer.
  9. Like many people, I learned to play____piano when I was a child but gave it up in my teens.
  10. We recommend that children and teenagers are inoculated against____meningitis.

Underline the correct determiner or determiners in each sentence (- = no article). In some cases, two may be correct.


  • None/ Some/ Both neighbours rushed to the aid of the elderly woman.
  1. It costs £10 a/an/- hour to hire the squash court.
  2. There’s a/ the/ – good wine bar in the town centre, isn’t there?
  3. A/ The/- Mr. Jones came to see you this afternoon.
  4. My parents grew up in the 1950s. In the/ these/ those days there was far less freedom than there is now.
  5. This/ That/ A woman I’d never met before came up to me in the bank and asked if she could borrow £10!
  6. It’s freezing! I’ve never known a winter -/this/that cold before.
  7. Isn’t there any / some/ the way that you can ensure delivery tomorrow?
  8. Every / All/ Each the children in the school have to take up at least one sport.
  9. We have asked our retail outlets to return both/both of/some the new models for further inspection.
  10. Much/ A lot / A few depends on the outcome of the negotiations.

Grammar Explanation: Determiners

Determiners are words that precede nouns, e.g. articles, demonstratives, quantifiers, and possessive adjectives. Articles can be a problem area in English for students even at an advanced level, especially for those whose own language has a very different article system. This unit covers articles, demonstrations, and quantifiers.


Basic Rules

Articles (a/ an, the) precede nouns and some other words in a noun phrase, e.g. few, little, adjectives. The article is usually the first word in a noun phrase, but note:

  • all/ both/ half + the: all the information, both the twins
  • quite / rather /such / what/ half + a/ an: quite a difficult problem

We use the indefinite article (a/ an) with singular countable nouns: a garage, an opinion.

We use the definite article (the) with singular countable nouns (the garage), with plural nouns (the latest computers) and uncountable nouns (the purest water). We can omit the with uncountable and plural nouns.

Naming, Describing and Classifying

We use a/ an when we name or describe something:

  • That’s a scarab beetle. ‘What’s that?’ ‘It’s an enormous anthill.’

We use a/ an when we refer to one example of a class or a species:

  • An African elephant has larger ears than an Indian elephant.

We use the to refer to the whole class or species:

  • The African elephant has larger ears than the Indian elephant.

However, it is more common to refer to the whole class with the plural:

  • African elephants have larger ears than Indian elephants.

Note: We do not use a/ an to refer to a whole class rather than individual examples:

 X Ruthless poachers hunt an elephant for the valuable ivory of its tusks.

 ✓Ruthless poachers hunt the elephant for the valuable ivory of its tusks.

 ✓Ruthless poachers hunt elephants for the valuable ivory of their tusks.

We can also use them with an adjective to refer to a class of people :

  • The homeless will be removed from the streets and placed in hostels.


Known or Unknown Topic

We use a/ an when the topic (noun) is not known to our listener/reader; we use the when it is known. Therefore, we usually use a/ an for the first reference to a topic in a text, but then use the for subsequent references:

  • A new travel guide has advised would-be tourists to Morecambe that it is a place to avoid. … The guide paints a bleak – if not third- world – picture.

We do not always have to mention something for it to be known to the listener. We consider that it is known in the following situations:

Situation Example
something is unique superlatives

the context makes it ‘known’

  • We are in danger of permanently damaging the Earth.
  • Muhammad AH is the greatest heavyweight boxer ever.
  • ‘Has Edward arrived get?’ ‘Yes, he’s in the dining-room.’

(= the dining-room of the house we are in)

a defining phrase makes it known’

a prepositional phrase makes it ‘known’

  • Oasis is the Manchester band that shot to fame in the early
  • Meet me in the café next to the underground station near my house

General and Specific

With plural nouns, we use either the or no article. We don’t use an article when we want to refer to a group or class in general. Compare:

  •  Tourists are often blamed for changing the character of a place. (= all tourists)
  • Did you notice what the tourists in the cathedral were doing? (= specific tourists)
  • It is commonly accepted today that brown bread is good for you.
  • Did you remember to get the bread out of the freezer?

We only use an article before an abstract noun if we wish to make an abstract noun more specific, e.g. to talk about a particular type of hope.

 X It is impossible to live in a world without the hope

 ✓ It is impossible to live in a world without hope (hope in general)

  • The hope of finding a cure for cancer drives a lot of medical research.

Nouns such as church, hospital, school do not take an article if we think of their purpose, i.e. church as a place of worship, or school as a place of learning:

  • Fewer people attend church regularly now than twenty years ago.
  • Can children leave school at fourteen in your country?

If we think of the physical place or building, we use an article:

  • The collection for restoring the church has almost reached its target.
  • Is there a school in the village or do the children have to go to the town?

Other Common Uses of Articles

A /an jobs, nationalities, and beliefs:

  • I’m a structural engineer. Helmut’s an Austrian. Cat Stevens became a Muslim1


  • a hundred thousand, prices, speeds, etc.: two dollars a kilo, 20km an hour
The some geographical names:

  • plurals (the United States, the US), areas (the West), mountain ranges (the Pyrenees), oceans or seas (the Pacific Ocean, the Black Sea), rivers (the Rhone)

musical instruments:

  • She plays the violin.

the media:

  • All our family work in the theatre 2

in some comparative phrases:

  • the more the merrier, all the better

in front of superlatives and first, last, next, only, same, right, wrong: the most dangerous profession, the last time, the only one

in measurements:

  • You can buy saffron by the gram.

physical environments:

  • I prefer the town to the country.


  • The Times, The Herald Tribune, The Daily Mirror

dates when spoken:

  • the tenth of May
No Article proper names:

  • James, Chris Graham, Mr Jones 3

names of most countries, mountains, lakes:

  • Japan, Mount Everest. Lake Victoria

substances, liquids and gases:

  • Cooking oil is simply liquid fat.


  • This blouse is made of silk.

political or business roles:

  • Lagos became President of Chile in 2000.


  • We’re going by rail to London, then by plane.

times and seasons:

  • at night, in summer, at dusk 4


  • Have you had breakfast? See you at lunch.


  • She plays both tennis and squash very well.


  • He’s got lung cancer. She’s had German measles.

1: We can use these without an article if we put the noun before the person’s name:

  • Irishman Eddie Jordan has put together a team of great quality and spirit.

2: We often use television, cinema, etc. without an article to refer to the art or entertainment form:

  • She works on television. I’m studying film in my final year.

If we refer to a specific item we use the article:

  • Don’t put flowers on the television. Have you seen the new film by Ridley Scott?

3: We use a/ an if we want to make a nameless specific:

  • A Mr. Jones came to see you this afternoon. (I don’t know which Mr Jones.)

We can make a name more specific by using the:

  • The Mr. Jones with the stutter came to see you. (The stutter identifies this Mr. Jones.)

4: Although we don’t usually use an article with seasons, it is possible to use the: in the

spring/the summer, and note that we use the with parts of the day: in the afternoon.

Note: We usually use a possessive adjective (not the) to refer to parts of the body:

  • Put your hand up if you know the answer.


Used as Adjectives

We can use demonstratives, this/that (singular) and these/those (plural), as adjectives before nouns to refer to someone or something known to both speaker and listener:

  • I’m not sure which shoes to buy.’ ‘Well, I think these shoes are lovely.’
Space Close Distance
  • Do you recognise this man?
  • These parrots can live to over 70.
  • I’ve seen that man before.
  • Can you see those birds in the tree?
  • What are you doing this weekend?
  • There’s so much crime these days.
  • Do you remember that weekend?
  • There were no drugs in those days.

We use them to distinguish between close and distant things (in both space and time): In very informal speech we can use this or these instead of a/ an or some, often to introduce a topic or start telling a story:

  • This woman came up to me in the bank and asked if she could borrow …

Used as Pronouns or Intensifiers

We can use demonstratives as pronouns to refer to a noun, a thing or idea:

  • This is a really wonderful cup of tea. What kind is it?
  • A/ an says he’s giving up his job to travel the world. I think that’s stupid.

We can use this to talk about a situation that we are experiencing:

  • This is the worst recession we have seen for more than ten years.

We can use demonstratives as a more formal alternative to the one(s):

  • Hundreds of Brixton residents turned out to welcome Tyson to their borough. Those who had bothered were rewarded by a 40-minute walkabout.

In certain expressions, we can use this or that instead of so to intensify an adjective:

  • I’ve never known a winter this cold before. So you think you’re that clever, do you?

See also:


Common Quantifiers and Their Use

Quantifiers are determiners that describe the quantity of something. Notice the use of of or of the shown in the table:

Quantifier + Singular noun + Plural noun + Uncountable noun
  • no
  • none of the
  • neither
  • either
  • any
  • both
  • neither cat
  • either twin
  • any document
  • I’ve got no coins.
  • none of the details
  • neither of the cats
  • either of the twins
  • any (of the) documents
  • both (of the) awards2
  • I ‘ve got no money.
  • none of the information
  • any (of the) information
  • few/ little
  • half
  • some
  • several
  • a lot of
  • many/ much
  • most
  • each
  • every (one of)
  • all
  • half (of) the task
  • a lot of the conference
  • most of the holiday
  • each applicant
  • every page 4
  • all (of) the problem
  • (a) few (of the) sweets 3
  • half (of) the tasks
  • some (of the) jewels
  • several (of the) episodes
  • a lot of (the) ideas
  • many (of the) chairs
  • most (of the) apples
  • each of the applicants
  • every one of the pages
  • all (of) the problems
  • (a) little (of the) water5
  • half (of) the work
  • some (of the) jewellery
  • a lot of (the) time
  • much (of the) furniture
  • most (of the) fruit
  • all (of) the trouble

1: We often use quantifiers (except none and a lot) directly before a noun:

  • It is impossible to nominate both candidates for the Vice-presidency.

With most quantifiers, using the before a plural or uncountable noun changes the meaning of the noun from general to specific:

  • I’d like some jewellery. (general, we don’t know which jewellery)
  • I’d like some of the jewellery. (specific, a particular set of jewellery)

2: With both, we can omit of before the. Both (of) the candidates believed they had won.

3: For the difference between little/few and a little/ a few.

4: Note the difference between each and every. Both quantifiers describe ‘more than one’; we can use each to refer to two things, but not every:

 X She was wearing a fine gold chain on every ankle.

 ✓ She was wearing a fine gold chain on each ankle.


  • She was wearing a ring on every finger.

We usually use some in positive sentences, any in questions and negatives:

  • You’ve got some interesting ideas, but have you got any money to back them?

We can use any in positive sentences with the meaning ‘it doesn’t matter which’:

  • You won’t catch any fish here. Any fisherman will tell you that.

Note: it is possible to use some in questions where we have some expectation that the answer will be positive:

  • Are some of the information useful? (I expect that a part of it is.)
  • Is any of the information useful? (I have no idea if it is useful or not.)

Quantifiers as Subjects Verb

We can use quantifiers (except no and every) without a noun as subject of the clause:

  • The vote was split: half were in favour of the motion, half were against it.

When used as subjects some quantifiers take a singular verb, and some take a plural Others are used with a singular or plural verb, depending on the noun they substitute or modify. Look at the table.

Always singular each, either, much

  • Much of the research has already been completed.
Always plural both, several, a few, many

  • Some visitors to the new gallery are enthusiastic but many have expressed their disappointment.
Singular or Plural any, half, some, a lot. all

  • Some of the information is considered top secret.
  • Some of us are hiring a minibus to go to the match.
  • We can’t get many books to the schools in the outback.’ ‘
  • Don’t worry. Any (books) are better than none.’

The quantifiers neither and none take a singular verb with plural nouns, though a plural verb is now accepted in speech and informal writing:

  • None of the students is/are willing to accept the increase in coursework.

Practice Exercise

Q 1.

Read this story and fill in the gaps with the correct article: a/ an, the or – (no article). For one gap you will need a possessive adjective.

I first experienced terror when I was seven. My mother lived in London, but after a brief liaison with (1)____ soldier from the United States, she became pregnant and fled to (2)____ country. (At that time, fifty years ago, it was considered shameful to be a single parent.) A great aunt of hers lived in (3)____ cottage in (4)_____ North Wales, and there she was able to bring me up in (5)____ peace, pretending that she was a widow. (6)_____ locals were all very friendly to us and accepted us without question, and I had (7)______ blissful childhood.

One day I arrived home from (8)_____ school to find my mother clutching (9)_____telegram, in floods of tears. (10)_______ telegram informed her that her father – my grandfather – had died. His funeral would be in three days and we had to go to London. I had never been outside (11)_____ village and I was really excited at the thought of going to (12)______ capital city. So, two days later, we boarded a train to London. It was (13)_____ first time I had been on a train and I could barely contain (14)_______ excitement of such an adventure. Several hours later we arrived. I clutched my mother’s hand as we stepped down from the train. (15)________ station was full of people rushing home from (16)______ work and it was quite dark. Now (17)_____ fear was starting to creep into my mind. Then, suddenly, we were in (18)_______ street outside the station. I had never seen so many people, buses and cars, nor heard so much noise. I was terrified. I opened (19)________ mouth and the wail that I let escape was one of (20)______ sheer terror.

Q 2.

Complete these short sentences with an appropriate article: a/an, the or – (no article).

  1. He’s got___asthma.
  2. The ring is just a band of___gold.
  3. It prints seven pages___minute.
  4. Let’s have a weekend in____ mountains
  5. She’s at____work.
  6. It’s in___Tasman Sea.
  7. Sorry – it’s____wrong answer.
  8. It appeared in____New York Times.
  9. She’s always been____Catholic.
  10. What’s for ____dinner?
  11. We’re going on a day trip by___coach
  12. They’re flying to____Seychelles.
  13. It’s____best solution.
  14. Can you ski on____Mont Blanc?
  15. It’s quite warm there in____winter.
  16. We all need____oxygen.
  17. We’ve had over____dozen applicants.
  18. She works in____television.
  19. It’s all____better if you can come early.
  20. He was crowned_____king.

Q 3.

Complete the dialogue with a demonstrative adjective or pronoun from the box.

this (x3) that (x4) these (x1) those (x2)

ROB: What’s on TV tonight, do you know?

JENNY: No. Why don’t you look in the paper you’re reading?

ROB: (1)___paper doesn’t have TV listings.

JENNY: Oh, right. Well try (2)____one on the shelf, over there.

ROB: OK yes, let’s see. There’s nothing much on (3)____days at all, is there? It’s all soaps and detective series.

JENNY: Mmm. I thought there was always a serious documentary on Tuesday evenings. (4)____one last week on homelessness was really interesting.

ROB: Yes, you’re right. There’s one on travellers. Listen. (5)___is awful. ‘Although landowners may lose income while travellers are on their land, there is no fast route to evicting them. (6)____who go through the courts often have to take out more than one injunction before the matter is settled.’

JENNY: Well, what do you expect? The travellers need somewhere to live, like the rest of us. The government should give them land.

ROB: (7)___’s no solution, is it? They want to travel, not to settle.

JENNY: How do you know? There was (8)___story in my magazine about travellers from years ago and the encampments they made – they were allowed to settle down then.

ROB: Yes, but in (9)____days there was more free land. The land is (10)____valuable today, people use every bit of it and don’t want travellers on their land.

JENNY: Mmm, well why don’t we turn the TV on and find out what the documentary says?

Q 4.

Match one of the sentences or beginnings of sentences in each pair (1-8) with a continuation of the sentence or conversation from the list below (A-l).

    1. I don’t know him. Do you?
    2. Could I have a closer look at it, please?
    3. It’s a basic human right.
    4. You just have to shop around.
    5. It’s the tallest type of tree in the world.
    6. She took journalism and media studies.
    7. You know, the one where Chris works.
    8. You know, the one that we couldn’t get last week.
    9. I’ve never come across one so talkative before!


  1. Let’s meet in a wine bar.
  2. Let’s meet in the wine bar. ==> _b_ + _G_


  1. My sister went to university.
  2. My sister went to the university


  1. The cat communicates a lot of desires and emotions.
  2. This cat communicates a lot of desires and emotions.


  1. Dr Richards called to speak to you.
  2. Dr Richards called to speak to you.


  1. People shouldn’t be denied freedom.
  2. People shouldn’t be denied the freedom …


  1. A giant redwood once grew to over 70 meters.
  2. The giant redwood can grow to more than 70 meters.


  1. Let’s get a video out this evening.
  2. Let’s get that video out this evening.


  1. You can pay a lot less for a car these days.
  2. You could pay a lot less for a car in those days.


  1. This is an interesting specimen.
  2. That’s an interesting specimen.

Q 5.

For each of these questions, either one or two alternatives (A-C) are correct. Circle the letters of the correct alternatives.

  • I haven’t seen ______ of those films, so I don’t mind which one we go to.
  1. any
  2. no
  3. either
  • You shouldn’t slouch like that. It puts ______of pressure on one hip and leg.
  1. much
  2. a lot
  3. all
  • At this stage______ information would have been a step In the right direction.
  1. little
  2. some
  3. any
  • The Fitness Room would like to invite ________ of its patrons to enter the annual fitness challenge.
  1. all
  2. every
  3. some
  • _______ witnesses responded to the police appeal after the accident.
  1. No
  2. None
  3. Any
  • _______ of the women who attended the demonstration was willing to give us an Interview.
  1. No
  2. None
  3. Many
  • We would like to add that _______ medallion is inscribed with the name of its lucky owner.
  1. each
  2. every
  3. either
  • Only _______ of the news today has been about the election.
  1. half
  2. a little
  3. a few
  • We guarantee that _______ item of the dinner service will be replaceable for a period of ten years.
  1. each
  2. every
  3. all
  • We are delighted to be able to welcome _______ the competition winners to the gala evening.
  1. both
  2. either
  3. all

Q 6.

Complete the article with the words from above each paragraph. (- = no article)

a all the the the
The this your

Food Frights

Planning a big day out this summer? It’s not just the rides that could turn your stomach!

The risk of food poisoning should be the last thing on (1)___mind when you’re enjoying a quiet day out (2)____summer. But, in (3)___UK, there were around 95,000 reported cases of (4)___food poisoning in (5)____last year alone – a four-fold increase on the number of reported cases just ten years ago.

We checked food safety at 13 of our top tourist attractions. We tested the food on offer and inspected hygiene standards at restaurants, cafés, and kiosks on site. Standards were generally poor. About (6)____third of the 65 food samples we bought tailed to meet satisfactory microbiological guidelines. Sandwiches came out worst — in five of (7)____25 samples we bought we found food-poisoning bacteria. But, to judge from our inspections, the results are not that surprising. Only one in seven food outlets passed (8)____of our inspection criteria. (9)____majority of problems we came across were staff-related and showed a lack of training in (10)____food safety.

each half most the the
these these This

What We Found

At (11)____tourist attraction we bought a selection of sandwiches and other food products. Our tests revealed specific food-poisoning bacteria in five of (12)____sandwiches. High levels of other general bacteria were also found in more than (13)____of the sandwiches – while (14)____bacteria don’t make you ill, they do point to (15)_____poor hygiene practices.

Five sandwiches contained food-poisoning bacteria at levels that are not satisfactory according to guidelines. (16)____could cause food-poisoning – (17)____children, elderly people and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. We’ve informed (18)_____food outlets and tourist attractions concerned; (19)____(but not all) have taken positive action as a result of (20)____disturbing findings.

Q 7.

Read the following text. In most lines, there is an unnecessary word, a word missing or an incorrect word. For each numbered line (1-23), identify the mistake and write the correct word in the space on the right. Some lines are correct. Indicate these with a tick (✓). The exercise begins with three examples.

Magnum Past and Present

  • Magnum is a co-operative of nearly sixty photographers with offices in New..
  • York, London, Paris and Tokyo. A co-operative was founded in 1947 by…. A => The
  • photographers the Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson. George Rodger and… the
  1. David Seymour. All them had been involved in the Second World War.
  2. Rodger had walked hundreds of miles through forest to escape Japanese
  3. in the Burma. And Seymour received a medal for his work in American
  4. intelligence.
  5. However, all of founders of Magnum had been photographers for
  6. some time. Photographic work they were famous for dated back further.
  7. Capa’s photos of the Spanish Civil war were called ‘finest pictures of
  8. front-line action ever taken.’
  9. They all appreciated an importance of showing the world what really
  10. happens during this major conflicts and world crises, so they decided to
  11. produce the best documentary photography at this time. Cartier-Bresson
  12. once commented ‘Some photographers tell the news step by the step as
  13. if making an accountant’s statement.’ He and Magnum, on the other hand,
  14. felt that the news had to be shown in that way that would engage most
  15. the people who are unable to experience world-changing events at first-hand.
  16. Tragically, within a decade of the start of Magnum, the half of its original
  17. founders died while covering other wars. However, agency had started to
  18. employ other top-class photographers and its work was sure to continue.
  19. Today, Magnum is some goal for many young photographers. It still
  20. produces the finest documentary photographs of world events. Recent
  21. coverage has included the events in Balkans and the tribal wars in East
  22. Africa, and while Magnum photographers cover these events, we will all be
  23. able to appreciate both best and worst of humanity.

Answer Key for Diagnostic Test

  1. the
  2. The
  3. the
  4. the
  5. the
  6. a
  7. the
  8. an
  9. a
  10. A/-
  11. those
  12. This/A
  13. this
  14. any/ some
  15. All
  16. both/ both of
  17. Much/ A lot

Answer Key for Practice Exercise

Q 1.

1. a 6. The 11. the 16. –
2. the 7. a 12. the 17. –
3. a 8. – 13. the 18. the/a
4. – 9. a 14. the 19. my
5. – 10. The 15. The 20 –

Q 2.

  1. a
  2. the
  3. the
  4. the
  5. the
  6. a
  7. the
  8. the
  9. -/the
  10. a
  11. the

Q 3.

  1. This
  2. that
  3. these
  4. That
  5. This
  6. Those
  7. That
  8. this
  9. those
  10. that

Q 4.

  1. a+F
  2. b+ I
  3. b+A
  4. a+C
  5. b+E
  6. b+H
  7. a+D
  8. b+B

Q 5.

  1. A, C
  2. B
  3. B, C
  4. A. C
  5. A
  6. B
  7. A, B
  8. A, B
  9. A, B
  10. A, C

Q 6.

  1. your
  2. this
  3. the
  4. the
  5. a
  6. the
  7. all
  8. The
  9. each
  10. the
  11. half
  12. these
  13. This
  14. the
  15. most
  16. these

Q 7.

  1. All them => All of them
  2. Japanese => the Japanese
  3. the Burma => Burma
  4. of-founders =>» of the founders
  5. Photographic work => The photographic work
  6. finest pictures => the finest pictures
  7. an => the
  8. this => these
  9. this => that
  10. step by the step => step by step
  11. that way => a way
  12. most-the people => most of the people
  13. the half => half
  14. agency => the agency
  15. some goal => the goal
  16. in Balkans => in the Balkans
  17. best => the best

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Courtney is one of our star content writers as she plays multiple roles. She is a phenomenal researcher and provides extensive articles to students. She is also an IELTS Trainer and an extremely good content writer. Courtney completed her English Masters at Kings College London, and has been a part of our team for more than 3 years. She has worked with the British Council and knows the tricks and tips of IELTS.

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