Learn English Determiners: An Introduction for English Language Learners

This course is designed to be simple to learn English for Chinese students.

One of the most difficult aspects to learning English, especially for Asian students is the use of articles ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’. 

Even the most successful learners, spending years in countries like America and England, find using the correct articles the most difficult part of writing .English text

listening exercise: Articles –  The Sound of Silence, Disturbed


A determiner is a word that modifies, describes, or introduces a noun

Determiners can be used to

  • clarify what a noun refers to
    • your pen
  • to indicate quantity or number
    • four wheels
  • definite and indefinite articles (the, a, an),
  • demonstratives (this, that),
  • possessive determiners (my, your, their),
  • cardinal numerals (one, two),
  • quantifiers (many, both),
  • distributive determiners (each, every), and
  • interrogative determiners (which, what)

Roles of Determiners

Determining Noun Types: Determiners help specify whether a noun is definite or indefinite.

  • the car (definite)
  • a car (indefinite)
  • an apple (indefinite)

Indicating Quantity:

  • many books, few people, several options, all students

Expressing Ownership / possession:

  • my, your, his, her, its, our and their
  • my car, their house

Demonstrate how close:

  • this, that, these and those
  • is it near or far?

Describing Specifics:

  • each, every, and any are members of a group
  • every student, any book

Expressing Quantity and Quality:

  • some, many, several, few, all, and most


  • type of determiner
  • Modify nouns
  • a, an, the
  • the blue pen
  • John is a good friend
  • the big park was fun

Refer to specific or general

  • A blue pen  could be any pen that is blue
  • The blue pen  is a specific pen

Choose a number  1  2  3  4  5 (any number)

Choose the number  a  2  u  Q  ! (the number)

Choose a country that you have lived 

(answer could be any country – that you have lived)

e.g. Ireland, England, Thailand

Choose the country that you live 

(answer could only be one country – that you live)

e.g. Thailand

Definite and Indefinite Articles

Definite articles

  • The apple
  • The apples
  • The car
  • The cars

Indefinite articles

  • An apple
  • An apples – x wrong
  • A car
  • An cars – x wrong

An – Use before a vowel sound

a – e – i – o – u sound

  • An elephant
  • An apple
  • An umbrella
  • An ice-cream
  • An orange
  • A University
  • A user
  • A unit
  • An hour
  • An FBI agent
  • An honorable man
  • U – An umbrella
  • U – A unicorn
  • U-sound – An umbrella
  • Yu-sound – A unicorn
  • N – A nut
  • N – An NBA program
  • N-sound – A nut
  • En-sound – An NBA program

Definite article

Let’s visit the Eiffel Tower

  • both you and your listener are aware of what is the Eiffel Tower

The President will address the nation tonight.

  • “the President” refers to an individual both you and your listener knows

I finally read the book I mentioned

  • If you had previously talked about a book and
  • you are referring to a specific book known to both you and your listener based on your earlier conversation.

The cat is on the roof

  • If you and your listener are aware of a particular cat that often goes on the roof

The restaurant across the street

  • When you and your listener are located near a specific restaurant, and
  • it’s clear which one you’re referring to

articles - not using articles

we do not use an article before uncountable nouns – (water, sheep, information, furniture, air, music)

  • Water is essential for life
  • Sheep produce wool
  • I need information on that topic
  • We have furniture in the living room
  • Air is composed of different gases
  • He enjoys music

More practice? Return to the main page of parts of speech to find out about other exercises ans worksheets.