Identifying and using correct quantifier, determiner for accountable noun


Determiners are said to mark a noun and while they are, like adjectives, modifiers of the noun, they have a variety of formats. Articles, demonstratives, possessives, numbers and quantifiers clarify nouns and noun groups and are determiners.

Articles (a, an, the), demonstratives (this, that, these, those) and possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, its, our, mum's, Mr Smith’s) help to answer the question which one/s in particular. Some, much, many, few, little, a lot, half, three, etc., are common quantifiers and are used to express amount or quantity. They can be used for both countable or an uncountable noun. Along with ellipsis and substitution, lexical cohesion and text connectives these reference language resources (articles, demonstratives, possessives, quantifiers, superlatives and comparatives) tie the meanings in clauses together so they become unified in a whole text.


The general articles “a” and “an” are called indefinite articles and the specific article “the“ is called a definite article. “A” is used before consonant sounds, and “an” is used before vowel sounds or a silent h because the vowel is heard as the first sound in the word, for example in an hour. These two articles refer to any one of a type of person, place, state of being, idea or thing. “The” refers to a specific person, place or thing. Articles are used to connect ideas in texts and are a cohesive device. Article ‘the’ is used before both singular and plural nouns.

Articles link ideas and make the text cohesive.


Demonstratives (this, that, these, those) tell us which specific thing is being referred to, either as close by: this and these OR further away: that or those. Demonstratives are sometimes referred to as 'pointers' in the noun group


Possessives (my, your, his, her, its, our, mum's, Mr Smith’s) tell us who owns something. ‘His’ and ‘her’ can be problematic for EALD students when gender is not expressed this way in their home language. Possessive adjectives usually precede the noun and possessive pronouns go after the noun.


Possessive adjectives This is my car. Is that your pen? This is my dog. Her cat is brown.
Possessive pronouns This car is mine. Is that pen yours? The dog is mine. The brown cat is hers.
Possessive adjectives Possessive pronouns
my mine
your yours
his his
hes hers
its its
our ours
their theirs


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. An example of a count noun is trees and a non-count noun dancing:

  • the following quantifiers work with count nouns: many, a few, few, several, a couple of, none of the.
  • the following quantifiers work with non-count nouns: not much, a little, little, a bit of, a good deal of, a great deal of, no.
  • the following quantifiers work with both count and non-count nouns: all of the, some, most of the, enough, a lot of, lots of, plenty of, a lack of.


Nouns are words that name people, places, things, ideas and states of being. There are different types of nouns:

  • common nouns (the vast majority) are the names of classes of things and begin with a lower-case letter, e.g. boy, girl, name, verb, biography, computer.
  • proper nouns name specific people, places, things and acronyms and begin with a capital letter, e.g. Cathy Freeman, Sydney Harbour, State Government, NSW.
  • abstract nouns name concepts or things that cannot be seen, e.g. democracy, hate, joy, honesty, hypothesis.
  • collective nouns name groups of things, e.g. team, family, committee, flock, bunch, murder etc.
  • mass nouns name things that cannot be counted, e.g. gold, milk, sunshine, furniture, traffic, information.

Noun groups

A noun group is a group of words relating to, or building on, a noun. Noun groups usually consist of an article (the, a, an) plus one or more adjectives or adverbs and are an important language resource for building up descriptions.

The dry, windswept, desert region has an extremely low level of rainfall.

Noun groups can also have adjectival phrases or adjectival clauses embedded in them:

  • the regions with low rainfalls are uninhabited. ('with low rainfalls' is an adjectival phrase).
  • the regions which have higher rainfalls are inhabited. ('which have higher rainfalls' is an adjectival clause -included with the subject).


There are at least eight different types of pronouns (please refer to overview.)

Pronouns have three cases: nominative (I, you, he, she, it, they), possessive (mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, its) and objective (me, him, her, him, us, them).

The two personal pronouns I and me are often used wrongly, usually in sentences in which I is being used with another noun. Use the nominative case when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. The rule of manners: always put the other person's name first also means that this name is part of the subject.

Some tips to get it right:

  • Use the pronoun I, along with other subjective pronouns such as we, he, she, you, and they, when the pronoun is the subject of a verb:
    • He went to bed.
    • We waited for the bus.
    • Clare and I are going for coffee.

In the last example, the pronoun I, together with the proper noun Clare, forms the subject of the sentence, therefore use I rather than me. (Note that there are two people so the plural form of the verb is used)

  • Use the pronoun me, along with other objective pronouns such as us, him, her, you and them, when the pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition:
    • Danny thanked them.
    • The dog followed us.
    • Rose spent the day with Jake and me.

Me, together with Jake, forms the object of the last sentence, so you need to use the pronoun me rather than the pronoun I.

An easy tool to ensure correct pronoun usage is to see whether the sentence reads properly if you remove the additional noun:

Correct Incorrect
(Clare and) I are going for coffee. Me and going for coffee.
Rose spent the day with (Jake and) me. Rose spent the day with I.

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns introduce a relative clause. They are called relative because they relate to the words they modify. They may be found in adjective and noun clauses. A relative pronoun is found only in sentences with more than one clause.
There are five relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that. In addition, these pronouns may take the suffixes -ever and -soever.

  • who, whom refer only to people.
  • which refers to things, qualities and ideas - never to people
  • that and whose refer to people, things, qualities and ideas

All but ‘that’ can also be interrogative pronouns. ‘That’ may also be a demonstrative pronoun.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: swat

  • Students play to learn/practice a variety of concepts. To play divide your students into two teams. Write the categories you are studying (e.g. pronouns or nouns etc.) in columns on the IWB/board/large sheet of paper and have one student from each team come up to take their turn.
  • Read a sentence out loud, and ask them to “swat” either metaphorically (especially if using the IWB) or with a plastic flyswatter which kind of article/determiner/verb/noun/pronoun is featured in the sentence.
  • The first to “swat” the correct answer wins! You can play this game for different kinds of adjectives, nouns, articles, and other grammatical elements.
  • Make a list of sentences, for example, from the current class reading text.

Activity 2: sentence auction

  • Pick some correct sentences, and add some with errors. Give each student (or pair of students) some ‘money’. The students ‘bid’ on each sentence if they think it is correct, and the highest bidder ‘buys’ the sentence.
  • The winner of the game is the student who buys the highest number of correct sentences. At the end of the game, have the students jointly decide which sentences are correct. Unpacking the errors in the incorrect sentence allows students the opportunity to explore the rules, protocols and specifics currently being explored in class.

Activity 3: noughts and crosses

  • Make a noughts-and-crosses grid, with one example of the correct grammatical form and non-examples in each square.
  • Divide the students into two teams.
  • When a team chooses a square, they have to respond to the example with information about its correctness or not or use it in a sentence.
  • If their answer is correct, they get a nought or a cross – if not, they skip their turn. At the end of the game, students can read the correct answers.
  • Each student writes three sentences about him / herself using target grammar (e.g. Dad and I went to Bunnings on the weekend to buy a lawnmower.) One of the sentences isn't true.
  • Each student then reads his or her sentences aloud, and the other students have to guess which of the three sentences is a lie.
  • To extend the speaking activity further, allow the listeners to ask questions after they have heard the three sentences. The reader must answer all the questions, but he / she should tell more lies about the untrue sentence, to try and deceive the listeners.
  • If the teacher feels the students have a good relationship with their peers they may vary this activity to allow students to justify their decision as to which one is the lie.

Activity 4: language puzzle

Using quantifiers many, a few, few, several, a couple of, none of the, not much, a little, little, a bit of, a good deal of, a great deal of, no and an activity string such as:-

  • Let’s go shopping!
    I’m going to buy (count / non count quantifier) __________ (noun- count / non count to match quantifier) __________ (add phrase/clause. (e.g. I’m going to buy a few pairs of shoes so I will look fabulous at the wedding.)
  • Let’s go camping!
    I’m going to take (count / non count quantifier) __________ (noun- count / non count to match quantifier) __________ (add phrase/clause.
  • Let’s go to school!
    I’m going to take (count / non count quantifier) __________ (noun- count / non count to match quantifier) __________ (add phrase/clause.

Students then in pairs, small groups or as a half class against each other either write or say responses. Extra points are awarded for innovative or creative plausible sentences.

Variation: Students brainstorm their own starters.

Activity 5: Waylon’s World

Using quantifiers many, a few, few, several, a couple of, none of the, not much, a little, little, a bit of, a good deal of, a great deal of, no and the following sentence pattern students create poetry either in groups or with a partner.

There is/are, quantifiers (much/many), noun (countable/uncountable distinction).
In Waylon’s World there are/is ___________ ___________, but there are/is no ____________ ____________.

  • In Waylon’s World there are a few cars, but there are no drivers.
  • In Waylon’s World there are many people, but there is not much food.
  • In Waylon’s World there are several seasons, but there is a great deal of summer.
  • In Waylon’s World there are few days, but there is a good deal of nights.
  • Oh dear! Not much do I want to go there!

Variation: Students change the name of the world. It doesn’t need to be alliterative, although this can begin conversations concerning its usage in poetry.

Activity 6: possessive pronouns and adjective games


Australian curriculum

ACELA1491: Understand how texts are made cohesive through the use of linking devices including pronoun reference and text connectives

NSW syllabus

EN2-4A: Uses an increasing range of skills, strategies and knowledge to fluently read, view and comprehend a range of texts on increasingly challenging topics.

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