Technical English II–DETERMINERS Lecture Notes

Anna University

HS2161 Technical English II – Lecture Notes



A word that comes before a common noun to show how a noun is used. It determines / affects the meaning of the noun. It comes first in a noun phrase.

Types of determiners:

Articles; definite (the car)

indefinite (a car)

zero (cars)

Demonstrative determiners (this car, that car, these cars)

Possessive determiners (my, your, his car – corresponding to each personal pronoun

Quantifying determiners (numbers, quantifiers, indefinite determiners) (one, two, three …, many, much, more, every, either, most, some, any, a few, a great many, a lot of, all etc.)

Wh-determiners (what, which, whose car)


The indefinite article

refers to a single member of a class. It is often used to introduce a new entity.

a before consonant sounds (a man, a horse)

an before vowel sound (an aunt, an H, an honour)

It is usually used in the same way in Norwegian and English, except the following cases:

English: indefinite article – Norwegian: no article:

Kari is a teacher, a Norwegian, a Catholic, a member of the board

Noun phrases in predicative position require an indefinite article.

If the noun phrase refers to a unique position, the indefinite article is not used:

He is president of the USA

She is chairman of the board

(Here the definite article is possible)

A Mr. Smith is waiting for you outside (a certain person whom I don’t know)

Mr. Smith is waiting for you outside (a person we both know)

The indefinite article is used more widely in English than in Norwegian:

To buy a house / a ticket, to get a letter / a job, to have a family / a dog / a key / a car / a party / a new address, to take a long time

With countable nouns English usually requires an indefinite article.

The definite article

specifies that the referent is known to the speaker. It is used with all types of common nouns (countable, uncountable, singular, plural).

/ / before consonant sounds

/ / before vowel sounds

Anaphoric reference (back reference): the referent is known to the reader

Peter bought a house last year. The house is now being redecorated.

Cataphoric reference (forward reference)

The city I work in is 900 yars old

Situational reference (a shared situational context)

The sun sets in the west

Generic reference vs. specific reference

Generic reference: reference to a class or kind or to institutions / when we are thinking of the general idea of these places and what they are used for. Something in general.

Specific reference: reference to a specific building or type. Something in particular.

In Norway children start school at the age of six

There is a meeting at the school today

Cars should be banned in city centres

The cars in the parking lot belong to the people who work here

Norwegians are fond of nature

The Norwegians are not very happy with the suggestion

He had to go to prison.

Where is the prison.

Do you go to church regularly?

Isn’t that a beautiful church? It’s the most beautiful church I have seen

Do you like coffee?

Do you like the coffee we had yesterday?

Uncountable nouns with the zero article express generic reference:

Life is too short

We can’t do without electricity

Back to nature

The definite article is used with musical instruments:

To play the piano / the guitar

We can use the definite article + an adjective to talk about groups of people:

The young / old / rich / unemployed / elderly etc.

We can use the definite article + nationality adjectives to refer to the people of that country:

The French / the Irish / the Enlish / the Chinese /the Swiss

The definite article is used with names of places, buildings, hotels, restaurants, pubs, theatres, cinemas, museums, oceans, seas, newpapers, organisations:

The Ritz / the Red Lion / the Tate Gallery/ the White House / the Pacific / the Times / the EU

Some expressions require the definite article in English and no article in Norwegian:

Go to the theatre / cinema, listen to the radio

The zero article

Is used to indicate generic reference (see above)

It is also used with names of continents, countries (except where they have the name ‘Republic’, ‘Kingdom’, ‘States’), states, regions, islands, cities, towns, mountains, streets, roads, parks:

Africa, Europe, Germany, Alabama, Isle of Man, Berlin, Mount Everest, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Fifth Avenue, Hyde Park

We don’t normally use the definite article with names of meals:

What’s for dinner / lunch / breakfast unless there is an adjective before the noun or we refer to a specific meal:

A business lunch

Did you enjoy the dinner?

Sentence pairs

Discuss any semantic difference between the sentence pairs:

Man walks on two legs

Men walk on two legs

A man is walking

The man is walking

Upper class men are deceptive crooks

An upper class man is a deceptive crook

The upper class man is a deceptive crook

I like horses. Horses are intelligent animals.

I like the horse. The horse is an intelligent animal.

I like a horse. A horse is an intelligent animal.

Dinner is ready.

What a lovely dinner!

The dinner we had last night was delicious.

Christmas is a time for …

I remember a Christmas not so many years ago.

It was the best Christmas of my life.

Business is improving in London.

A business is opened in London.

English is interesting.

The English are interesting.

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