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1.3: What is a POINTER?

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    Have you ever had a teacher or professor who used a pointer?  You know, the long stick that they used to point to specific words, numbers, images, or something on the board. Those pointers let us know which word they were reading or what number they were referring to.  The term POINTER in our context of language does something very similar.  It orients us to a specific noun.  

    What are these pointers you ask?  They are also known as articles, demonstrative determiners, and possessive determiners.



    • a/an
    • the

    Demonstrative determiners:

    • this
    • that
    • these
    • those

    Possessive determiners:

    • my
    • your
    • her 
    • Mike's
    • Rosa's
    • Omar's
    • grandma's
    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

     A dog barked.  


    In the example above, the author is talking about a specific dog.  We may not now exactly which dog, the the author is signaling to us that they are referring to one specific dog.   


    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    A dog barked. It barked and barked.  Finally, the dog stopped barking.


    In this example, the author is talking about the same dog whether using the A dog, It, or The dog.  How can A dog and The dog be the same dog?  When a new person/place/thing is introduced to an audience, authors will generally use a/an.  Then, once there is shared understanding that we are now talking about a particular dog, the author can switch to the.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    This year has been so wonderful.  But do you remember when we were younger?  Those days were challenging!


    This/These are used to describe singular (this) or plural (these) nouns that are near the author.  These can be a literal closeness [This book (that I am holding in my hand) is amazing] or more abstract, like with time [This day (today) has been tiring].  That/Those are used to describe singular (that) or plural (those) nouns that are further away from the author.  For example, [That book over there belonged to my grandmother] or [Those events were a long time ago]

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Judy's grandson has a birthday in December.  His parents like to celebrate with a big party.


    Judy's is an example of what is called a possessive determiner.  Judy 'owns' or 'possesses' something.  In this case, she possesses a grandson.  It is the grandson that has the birthday, so the grandson is the head noun.  Judy, while a proper noun, becomes a possessive determiner with the addition of the apostrophe + s ('s).  His is another example of a possessive determiner.  But rather than a proper noun (Judy), we are using a pronoun.  In the noun group his parents, 'parents' is the head noun.  His let's us know we are talking about the previously mentioned grandson's parents.  Please note that the use of his  in [That book is his] is a different form and function from [His parents are kind]. The first is a possessive pronoun.  It stands alone and replaces an entire noun group.  It is not attached to another noun.  The second one, and the focus of this page, is a possessive determiner.  It points to and is connected to a head noun in a noun group.  


    1.3: What is a POINTER? is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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