Learning English Articles/Determiners Better


Certain words, especially nouns or noun phrases, need premodifiers or modifiers, in some cases, so that their meanings can be lucidly well-defined in terms of persons, objects, qualities, or quantities. Such words functioning as premodifiers are called articles and determiners.


An article can be defined as a structural aspect of speech used as a modifier that changes nouns or adjectives to noun phrases or adjective phrases. It is divided into two namely, definite (the) and indefinite (a) and (an) articles

Usage of Articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’

The indefinite article ‘a’ usually precedes the initial consonant sound of a word, e.g.

  1. A girl
  2. A car
  3. A chair

The indefinite article ‘an’ always precedes the initial vowel sound of a word, e.g.

  1. An egg
  2. An apple
  3. An idiot

Without considering the spelling, if the initial letter of a word is pronounced as /u/, then such a word should be preceded by the article ‘a, e.g.

  1. A European league
  2. A union
  3. A unicameral legislature

The initial letter ‘h’ which is voiced as the sound /h/ in a word must be preceded by the article ‘a, e.g.

  1. A handsome man /h/
  2. A heroine /h/
  3. A handkerchief /h/

However, if the initial ‘h’ of words are voiceless zero sounds, then such words should be preceded by the article ‘an’ because the initial sound of those words are vowels, e.g.

  1. An honest girl
  2. An hour
  3. An honorable man

Article ‘the’ can precede the initial consonants or the letters and vowels or letters, e.g.

  1. The violin
  2. The elephant

Article ‘the’ is used for making specific references, e.g.

  1. The English Language teacher
  2. The small village

Article ‘the’ is used further before any superlative degree of adjectives, e.g.

  1. The most beautiful girl
  2. The best shoe


A determiner simply means a modifier because it is the class of structural aspects of speech that modify nouns, noun phrases, and even prepositional phrases to convey clear meanings. Most of the determiners are partitives that express the part of a whole meaning of the sentences and modify nouns or noun phrases. Some of them will be discussed below:

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Determiners as Pre-Modifiers


Any is used to refer to a part of unstated countable nouns, e.g

  1. Any student can pass the subject.
  2. Any member of the choir can lead the chorus.

Any is used also to indicate ‘nothingness’, e.g.

  1. Sidi doesn’t have an English notebook.
  2. The man can’t recognize any Ibadan man here.


  1. Few expresses number which is too small. It is used before plural countable nouns and plural verbs, e.g.
  2. Few people are selected for competition.
  3. Few applicants were employed out of thousands.

{A/The Few}

It is used to indicate a number which is not many but more than a few. Article ‘a’ or ‘the’ is possible before few.

It is used to modify plural countable nouns or noun phrases and plural verbs, e.g.

  1. A/the few people have left half way.
  2. A/the few hours have passed because he doesn’t arrive on time.


Little denotes something small or not sufficient. It is used before uncountable nouns or noun phrases and abstract nouns, e.g.

  1. The beans need little water to cook well.
  2. You can help him because he has little experience.

{A/The Little}

A/The little is possible before uncountable nouns or noun phrases, and exressing something t bit much and sufficient, e.g.

  1. Since I have a/the little money, I will buy a car.
  2. Please, can you give me a/the little time to summarise the passage?


Much is used with uncountable nouns, especially meaning ‘a large amount of something’, e.g.

  1. I don’t have much money now.
  2. Please, I don’t have much time to spend here.

Much can be pre-modified by certain intensifiers such as: so, as, very, too, etc., and it modifies uncountable or abstract nouns, e.g.

  1. I have too much work to do.
  2. I can spend as much time as I want with you.


Many is used to modify plural nouns and plural verbs. It can

be realized under the statement, negation, or question to mean a large number of something or somebody’, e.g.

  1. Statement
  2. There are many students here.
  3. Many Nigerians are jobless.
  4. Negation
  5. We don’t have many copies here.
  6. Question
  7. How many houses do you have?
  8. How many people came yesterday?
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Some may be used to modify uncountable or abstract nouns and it must be used with a singular verb, e.g.

  1. Some water is needed.
  2. Some advice you gave me helps a lot.

Some can also modify countable plural nouns or noun phrases.

  1. Some lecturers are young.
  2. Some people have gone there.


Several is used to show the expression that implies more than two but not many or various. It modifies the plural nouns and it must be used as the plural verb, e.g.

  1. Several books are in our library.
  2. Several poems were recited by our pupils.


All is used with the plural nouns or noun phrases and it must be used with the plural verbs, e.g.

  1. All guests don’t come.
  2. All his children are proud.

All can also be used with uncountable (mass) nouns or noun phrases and it must be used with a singular verb, e.g.

  1. All luggage has to be packed today.
  2. All advice is meant for the young.

Remember that no uncountable nouns can be added with the

final’s. So, there is no *luggages and advices*.


Every is used to indicate a whole group and modifies singular nouns or noun phrases, and it must be used with a singular verb, e.g.

  1. Every student is here.
  2. Every disobedient child has to be punished.

Whenever a plural determiner follows every, it should be followed by plural nouns or noun phrases, e.g.

  1. The man comes here every five minutes.
  2. Mr. Alani stops a car every few miles.

‘Five’ and ‘few’ are plural determiners that must also be followed by plural nouns ‘minutes’ and ‘miles’ not ‘minute’ and ‘mile’.

  1. There was _______ enough food to go round.

(a) scarcely (b) a little (c) almost (d) little

  1. _______ things she had in her room were thrown out.

(a) So few (b) The few (c) All few (d) Very few

  1. With _______ more patience, you will overcome your trouble.
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(a) much (b) a little (c) little (d) less

  1. His idea appears _______ odd for people to accept.

(a) little (b) little too (c) too little (d) a little too

  1. My mother could not prepare the dish because there was _______ oil available.

(a) small (b) little (c) a little (d) some

  1. Because it has been raining heavily all morning

_______ people turned out to welcome the august visitor.

(a) few (b) quite a few (c) only (d) a few

  1. Could I borrow _______ cash please?

(a) a little (b) a few (c) much (d) few

  1. Many people were invited to the party but _______ were catered for

(a) a few (b) several (c) a little (d) few

9. There are too _______ mistakes in this report!

(a) few (b) many (c) much (d) plenty

  1. _______ university is _______ institution of higher

learning. (a) An … an (b) An … a (c) A … a (d) A … an

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