I have seen words like "every" and "any", etc. classified both as determiners and pronominal adjectives. Are these just different classifications of the same thing? Or does the latter have to be able to stand by itself like a pronoun? Or are determiners a subclass of a pronominal adjective?

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    They come from different grammatical traditions. Some people feel compelled to label every English word as one of the Latin Eight Parts Of Speech, which is medieval science at its most durable. More recent versions have noted that not all languages are the same as Latin, and often use non-traditional but helpfully descriptive terms like determiner, instead of having to make up confusing compounds out of traditional terms Sep 22, 2020 at 21:01
  • @JohnLawler - LOL thanks. But let me ask a related question. Can a determiner only start the NP? If a word like "other" moves from the first position to a middle position, is it just an adjective; for example, "show me other choices" and "show me the other choices". Or if "other" doesn't qualify as a determiner in either of those, how about "she had eggs every day" and "she had eggs almost every day". In other words, is determiner more a classification of usage than type? Sep 22, 2020 at 21:12
  • At the beginning of the NP there can be very very complex determiner phrases, including quantifiers and articles and possessors, and all of them are grouped in order (the same way adjectives are), but all the determiners come before all of the adjectives. That's what it means to "start the NP"; the start may take a while, if the NP is something like [far more than I would have expected of the Marquess of Kingsbury's] tall old crumbling Edwardian red brick mansions (the bracketed part is the determiner phrase). Sep 22, 2020 at 21:26
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    "Every" and "any" belong to the word class 'determinative', and they function as determiners. The term 'pronominal adjective' is useless, meaningless and flat wrong, so don't use it! Btw, why don't you buy a decent modern grammar book? CGEL (Huddleston&Pullum 2002) is the best currently available.
    – BillJ
    Sep 23, 2020 at 6:45
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    CGEL is where the terminology BillJ is recommending comes from. Not everyone uses those terms, despite the undoubted excellence of CGEL as a reference. Sep 23, 2020 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


I    (source of the paraphrasing below: CGEL)

Fundamental in the concept of determiner, the article is a particular type of determiner called central determiner (three forms: a, an, the). There are two other types of determiners: the predeterminers and the postdeterminers.

  • She followed her father in his travels to all the many faraway countries where he had to work. (1)

Pronominal adjectives are words such as "his", "this" and "some" which are called pronominal adjectives because they are both adjectives and pronouns depending on the word environment. They could have been called as well adjectival pronouns. This is just a term that describes their double function on the basis of a single meaning; however only one of the two functions can be effective in any given word context.

  • His (det.) hair is dark; the girl's hair is dark, his (pron.) is not. (2)
  • The cat drank some (det.) milk. Did you pour some (pron.) for the dog too? (3)

The pronominal adjectives are determiners or more precisely central determiners, this being so because they occupy the same position in the noun phrase that the articles do, the articles being the most basic central determiners.
This means that the article is not the only possibility for determining nouns in a fundamental manner. Instead of "a" or "the" you may find "this", "that", "every", "each" and so on. These words form a set of closed-class items (finite in number) that are mutually exclusive with one another (for instance "a the boy" and "some the boy" are not possible combinations). They constitute another sort of central determiner that differs from the basic ones in the following ways.

  • Whereas the articles have no function other than making precise how the head is used, the pronominal adjectives have the function of head in a noun phrase. This is shown in the sentences "(2)" and "(3)". The central determiners "no" and "every" are exceptions; they cannot function as pronouns.
  • A second important difference of the pronominal adjectives is that unlike the basic central determiners, they have a lexical meaning.
  • An important number of them can be used with "of".


In the 2nd table found on this page (Cambridge Grammar), the 3rd and 4th column, labelled respectively "demonstratives" and "possessives", show two classes of pronominal adjectives; the second table shows the class of pronominal adjectives that can be used with "of". Those tables show all the central determiners that are not articles or in other words all the pronominal adjectives. Note that the terminology "pronominal adjective" is not used in CGEL nor in the Cambridge Grammar and what is called "adjective" in the second column of the first table has nothing to do with pronominal adjectives; those latter are not found in that column.


"Other" is a postdeterminer and "every" a central determiner (as you must have noticed in the above). "Another" is a central determiner (you can combine it with "of", it's not so for "other").

In "She had eggs almost every day." "almost" is not a determiner but an adverb although some grammarians consider words of this type to be determiners (ref.).

3 April 2021    Reply to comments that I apparently failed to consider (user BillJ, user tangosquared)

I just became aware of your unanswered comments. The CoGEL treats predeterminers as determiners (Chapter 5    Nouns and determiners). Modification (at least in CoGEL) is a concept that pertains to the noun phrase among other things: it connotes particular intrinsic characteristics of the referent of the head. It is achieved for instance through copular relations and the use of attributive adjectives. In "all the white cards" the adjective "white" modifies, or even more precisely, specifies a sub-sort within a sort; on the other hand all does not contribute to making precise the nature of the cards itself, it does not modify the general idea of "card" nor the general idea of "white card" for that matter; rather, within the given sort (white ones), it allows to determine more certainly which white cards one has in mind ("none is being left out" is the determination). This is the idea in the difference between "determination" and "modification" and in my opinion the definition (implicit in CoGEL) and the corresponding choice of term (in CoGEL) are fairly sound. So, we are confronted to a question of terminology, of naming, and there is no great problem as long it can be asserted that "modification", as used in CGEL and CoGEL corresponds to different definitions (I doubt that though).
As the idea in what perform words of the type of "all" in the noun phrase is similar to what do words more evidently of a determiner type such as "the" and "a" they are reckoned with as determiners; as, among other characteristics, they show the syntactic one of appearing sequentially before the central determiners (a, the,…), they are called predeterminers.

  • Thanks for that additional information. Determiner behavior seems much more obvious to when you have one like "a", "an", or "the". Phrases like "all the horses" or "all the many horses" help illustrate that determiners don't have to be the first in the NP order (but have to precede adjectives). Sep 23, 2020 at 2:06
  • @tangosquared My advice to you is to ignore this answer. It is fundamentally flawed and misleading.
    – BillJ
    Sep 23, 2020 at 6:51
  • @tangosquared "All" is a dterminer; it's of that sort of determiner that precedes central determiners such as "a", "the", "his", "some", hence its category, called predeterminer.
    – LPH
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:00
  • It's important to distinguish word class and function. "All" belongs to the word class (part of speech) determinative, and its function is Determiner. Predeterminers are not determiners at all, but modifiers that occur before a determiner.
    – BillJ
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:29
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    @BillJ What would be a good resource that distinguishes between class and function? Sep 23, 2020 at 15:56

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