Determiners are words like the, an, my, some. They are grammatically similar. They all come at the beginning of noun phrases, and usually we cannot use more than one determiner in the same noun phrase.
- a, an, the
- my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose
- each, every
- either, neither
- some, any, no
- much, many; more, most
- little, less, least
- few, fewer, fewest
- what, whatever; which, whichever
- both, half, all
Some Notes on Quantifiers
Like articles, quantifiers are words that precede and modify nouns. They tell us how many or how much. Selecting the correct quantifier depends on your understanding the distinction between Count and Non-Count Nouns. For our purposes, we will choose the count noun trees and the non-count noun dancing:
The following quantifiers will work with count nouns:
a few trees
a couple of trees
none of the trees
The following quantifiers will work with non-count nouns:
not much dancing
a little dancing
a bit of dancing
a good deal of dancing
a great deal of dancing
The following quantifiers will work with both count and non-count nouns:
all of the trees/dancing
most of the trees/dancing
a lot of trees/dancing
lots of trees/dancing
plenty of trees/dancing
a lack of trees/dancing
In formal academic writing, it is usually better to use many and much rather than phrases such as a lot of, lots of and plenty of.
There is an important difference between "a little" and "little" (used with non-count words) and between "a few" and "few" (used with count words). If I say that Tashonda has a little experience in management that means that although Tashonda is no great expert she does have some experience and that experience might well be enough for our purposes. If I say that Tashonda has little experience in management that means that she doesn't have enough experience. If I say that Charlie owns a few books on Latin American literature that means that he has some some books — not a lot of books, but probably enough for our purposes. If I say that Charlie owns few books on Latin American literature, that means he doesn't have enough for our purposes and we'd better go to the library.
Unless it is combined with of, the quantifier "much" is reserved for questions and negative statements:
- Much of the snow has already melted.
- How much snow fell yesterday?
- Not much.
Note that the quantifier "most of the" must include the definite article the when it modifies a specific noun, whether it's a count or a non-count noun: "most of the instructors at this college have a doctorate"; "most of the water has evaporated." With a general plural noun, however (when you are not referring to a specific entity), the "of the" is dropped:
- Most colleges have their own admissions policy.
- Most students apply to several colleges.
An indefinite article is sometimes used in conjunction with the quantifier many, thus joining a plural quantifier with a singular noun (which then takes a singular verb):
- Many a young man has fallen in love with her golden hair.
- Many an apple has fallen by October.
Either and Neither
Either and neither are used in sentences concerning a possible choice between two items.
Either can mean one or the other (of two) or each of two.
I've got tea and coffee, so you can have either. (One or the other)
The room has a door at either end. (Both)
Neither means not the first one and not the second one.
Neither of the students were listening.
This construction lends itself to a somewhat literary effect (some would say a stuffy or archaic effect) and is best used sparingly, if at all.
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