What is a determiner? Determiners are words which introduce a noun.

The table below demonstrates the different types of determiners:

Type of determiner Example
Articles a rabbit, the door, an instrument,
Demonstratives that dog, this flower, these apples, those people
Possessives my car, your coat, her hamster, his shirt, our garden, their cat
Question whose laptop, which house, what card
Quantifiers some chickens, more money, every child, several teams, each tree
Numbers three birds, one book, twenty marbles

Determiners known as articles can either be definite (‘the’) or indefinite (‘a’ or ‘an’). The definite article refers to a specific noun, for example:

The dog ran up the garden’.

The definite article ‘the’ refers to a specific dog and suggests that the dog has been seen before. Whereas, if referring to something more general, an indefinite article is used:

A dog ran up the garden’.

This sentence suggests that the dog has not been seen before.

Teachers might demonstrate the use of definite and indefinite articles by pointing them out in a story that the class are reading. It is common for a character or an object in a story to be first introduced using an indefinite article, and from then on be referred to with a definite article. For example:

‘The boy screamed as a spider darted across his floor. To avoid the spider, the boy jumped onto his bed’.

When do children learn about determiners?

Children will be introduced to the term determiner and the different types in Year 5 or Year 6. Teachers will probably introduce determiners one type at a time and ensure that children get plenty of practice identifying them in sentences.

Children should be comfortable with the different types of determiner for their Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (GPS) test.

What can children sometimes struggle with?

Sometimes it is confusing for children because some words can act either as pronouns or determiners. For example, the word ‘that’:

That football is mine. (determiner)

I want that. (pronoun)

In the first sentence, the word ‘that’ is introducing the noun ‘football’, so it is a determiner.

In the second sentence, the word ‘that’ is replacing a noun. It is referring to a specific object without naming it directly.

Therefore, it is important for children to remember that if the word is a determiner, then it will always come before a noun in a sentence.

How to help children with determiners?

In preparation for the Year 6 GPS test, it is helpful to give children practice questions, for example:

Complete the sentence below by adding appropriate articles in the blank spaces.

‘I met my friends in                park for             picnic. I ate                sandwich, six strawberries and               apple.

Answer: I met my friends in the/a park for the/a picnic. I ate a sandwich, six strawberries and an apple.

Underline all the words which are determiners in the sentence below.

‘Four birds flew past the window and landed on a tree’.

Answer: Four birds flew past the window and landed on a tree.

How does Learning Street help children with determiners?

Core English skills are an important part of the Learning Street courses. Whether a lesson directly focuses on determiners or not, they will continually be practised alongside other skills. By practising a little bit often, it will lead to it becoming second nature for the child.

Determiners will begin to become more focused on from the 10 year old course, in order to link with the child starting to learn about them at school.

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