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Most Confusing Determiners in English

Published on Friday, June 15, 2018
Most Confusing Determiners in English
Determiners are words which qualify or identify nouns. Determiners are followed by a noun. The most common determiners are as follows:
  • Articles: a, an, the 
  • Quantifiers: all, few, many, several, some 
  • Possessive: her, his, its, my, our, their, your 
  • Demonstratives: this, that, these, those 
  • Numerals: one, three, hundred 
  • Negative: No 

1. Farther/Farthest and Further/Furthest

Both forms (Farther/Farthest and Further/Furthest) can be used for distances. 
  • Chennai is farther/further than Bangalore. 
  • Chennai is the farthest/furthest town. 
Further is usually used with abstract nouns to mean additional/extra. 
  • No further action is needed in this matter. 
  • I do not propose to discuss it any further. 
Furthest can also be used with abstract nouns. 
  • This was the furthest point they reached in their discussion. 
  • This was the furthest concession he would make. 

2. Elder/Eldest and Older/Oldest

Elder/Eldest are chiefly used for comparisons within a family. They imply seniority rather than age. Elder and eldest are used for persons, while older and oldest are used for persons as well as for things. Elder is not used with than, it takes to. Older/oldest is used for age
  • Ram is my elder brother. 
  • Shiva is the eldest of four brothers. 
  • My grandfather is older than his grandmother. 
  • This is the oldest college in our city. 

3. Later/Latest/Latter/Last

Later and Latest are used with reference to time. Latter and last is used with reference to order. Latest refers to new (last up to now) or very recent things. Last means final or no new after that. In talking about events, inventions, productions etc. we use latest. Latter is used for comparison of two in order, for more than two we use last. 
  • He came later than Ram. 
  • He came in the last. 
  • Between Ram and Shiva, the latter is more intelligent. (means Shiva is more intelligent than Ram.) 
  • Of iron and silver, the latter is known as white metal. 
  • This is the latest fashion. 
  • Lord Mountbatten was the last Governor General of India. 

4. Many/Much(Adjectives and Pronouns)

Many (adjective) is used before countable nouns. Much (adjective) is used before uncountable nouns. 
  • She didn’t buy many books. 
  • Ram need much money. 
The comparative and superlative degree of much and many are same: more and most

5. Less/Fewer/Lesser

When we talk about countable things we use the word fewer; and for uncountables, the word less is used.
  • She had fewer chores, but lesser energy. 
  • Fewer people smoke these days than used to. 
We do, however, definitely use less when referring to statistical or numerical expressions. 
  • Its less than fifty kilometres to Delhi. 
  • She is less than five feet tall. 
  • Lesser means less important. 
  • Many lesser speakers also came to speak. 
  • Many lesser readers were present in the function. 
Note: Taller than I/me, which is correct?
  • He is taller than me. ➡️ Incorrect 
  • He is taller than I. ➡️ Correct. 

6. Near/Next

The adjective near can be used like a preposition with or without to. To is not normally used when we talk about physical closeness.
  • He lives near railway station. 
  • The runners looked near exhaustion. 
Next is used to talk about time or series, it means after this. 
  • She got off at the next stop. 
  • She is away for the next few days. 

7. Verbal/Oral

Oral communication is spoken rather than written.
  • The written and oral traditions of ancient culture. 
  • An oral agreement. 
We use oral to indicate that something is done with a person’s mouth or relates to person’s mouth. 
  • Antibiotic tablets taken orally. 
  • She decided to give the report orally rather than in writing. 
Verbal: We use verbal also to indicate that something is expressed in speech rather than in writing or in action. 
  • They were subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse. 
  • We have a verbal agreement with her. 
We use verbal to indicate that something is connected with words and the use of words. 
  • The test has scores for verbal skills and arithmetic skills. 
  • Many strikebreakers were subjected to verbal and physical attacks. 
In English grammar, verbal means relating to a verb. (Verbal noun)

8. Due to/Owing to

Due to can be used as a complement of the verb. Due to means as a result of while owing to means because of.
  • He failed due to his negligence. 
  • Owing to his negligence, he failed. 
  • The accident was due to carelessness. 
  • Owing to carelessness there was an accident. 
Due to is also used after a noun and to introduce an adjectival construction as per the following. 
  • Mistakes due to carelessness have serious consequences. 
  • A power failure due to a fault in the cable, brought all the machinery to standstill. 

9. Some/Any

Some is used normally in affirmative with countables and uncountables as well. In interrogative sentences, some is used for request or offer or command and for which answer in affirmation is expected.
  • I shall buy some books. 
  • They have purchased some fruits. 
  • Will you give me some milk? 
Any is normally used in negative and interrogative sentences for countable and uncountables as well. 
  • I don’t have any pen. 
  • Have you read any novel? 

10. Each/every

Each and every are similar in meaning. Each is used for two and more than two while every is always used for more than two. 
  • Each of the two girls gets a prize. 
  • Each of the ten students gets a prize. 
  • Every student gets a prize. 
  • Every candidate was given a certificate. 
Each: Two and more than two.
Every: More than two.

11. Little/A little/The little

Little is used for uncountables. Little means hardly any. It has negative meaning (almost nothing). A little means some though not much. It has positive meaning. The little means not much but all that is. It also has positive meaning. 
  • He takes little interest in parental business. (He has hardly any or no interest.) 
  • We have a little hope of his recovery. (He may recover.) 
  • The little money she had, was also spent on medicines. (He have no money now.) 

12. Few/A few/The few

Few is used for countable. Few means hardly any. It has a negative meaning. A few means not many. It has a positive meaning. The few means not many but all there are. It also has positive meaning
  • Few people are fully happy. (Hardly any people) 
  • A few people can write correct English. 
  • The few utensils she had, all taken by the thief. (Now she has no utensils) 

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