In last week’s column, I explained to a member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum based in Russia how the word “mine” could work as a determiner in a very limited, now archaic way in addition to its well-established functions as a pronoun or adjective. This is when “mine” doesn’t take its normal position after a noun phrase, as in “She is an old acquaintance of mine” where it works as a pronoun, but right before a noun phrase instead, as in this line of an English sonnet from the Elizabethan period: “Let not mine eyes be hell-driven from that light / O look, O shine, O let me die and see.”

Every determiner in English, I pointed out to John, takes this position right before the noun phrase to indicate whether that noun phrase is being used in a specific or general sense. A specific determiner (like the article “the” in “the woman who manages Microsoft Philippines”) is used when the speaker or writer believes that the listener or reader knows exactly what’s being referred to, and a general determiner (like “any” in “any senator worthy of respect”) is used when the speaker or writer is talking about things in general and the listener or reader doesn’t know exactly what’s being referred to.

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